Using submarines to land spies and launch raids is nothing new, but America’s navy is planning to add a twist to the idea by employing drones as the spies and commandos in question. Heterogeneous Collaborative Unmanned Systems (hcus), as these drones will be known, would be dropped off by either a manned submarine or one of the navy’s big new Orca robot submersibles. They could be delivered individually, but will more often be part of a collective system called an encapsulated payload. Such a system will then release small underwater vehicles able to identify ships and submarines by their acoustic signatures, and also aerial drones similar to the BlackWing reconnaissance drones already flown from certain naval vessels.
Once the initial intelligence these drones collect has been analysed, a payload’s operators will be in a position to relay further orders. They could, for example, send aerial drones ashore to drop off solar-powered ground sensors at specified points. These sensors, typically disguised as rocks, will send back the data they collect via drones of the sort that dropped them off. Some will have cameras or microphones, others seismometers which detect the vibrations of ground vehicles, while others still intercept radio traffic or Wi-Fi.