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Hybrid Unmanned Air / Underwater Vehicle for Explosive Ordnance Disposal (EOD) and Mine Countermeasures (MCM)


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Air Platform, Ground/Sea Vehicles

ACQUISITION PROGRAM: PMS-408 Expeditionary Unmanned Neutralization System (EUNS)

OBJECTIVE: Develop a Hybrid Unmanned Air / Underwater Vehicle capable of operating in air and underwater interchangeably.

DESCRIPTION: Unmanned airborne vehicles (UAVs) and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs) are used by the Navy to locate objects in the ocean. Unmanned airborne vehicles have been demonstrated to land on the ocean surface and even penetrate the surface and travel small distances underwater but not return to the surface. Recent advances in vehicle control technology and propulsion systems make it feasible to construct innovative unmanned vehicles that can operate in air and underwater interchangeably (i.e. enter the water and return to the surface to resume operations in air). This type of vehicle will be referred to as a Hybrid Unmanned Air / Underwater Vehicle (HUA/UV). Nature provides examples of birds that have developed superior strategies for searching large areas of the ocean to hunt for food beneath the surface. These birds are able to fly rapidly in air above the ocean surface because there is less drag on their bodies and enter the higher drag environment of the water only when they locate a food source under the surface. They then swim underwater to capture their source of food and return to the surface to repeat the sequence if necessary. These birds conserve energy (i.e. fuel) by avoiding the higher body drag associated with the water which allows them to explore large areas of the ocean in their hunt for food. The HUA/UV will exploit this same strategy and will be capable of rapidly covering large areas of the ocean to locate objects in the ocean. The HUA/UV must be able to complete the following sequence: transit in air to a location on the water surface, enter the water, transit underwater to inspect an underwater object using a video camera, exit the water, and transit in air back to the point of launch. This sequence must be accomplished with the HUA/UV operating under full control. Technical risks include control, maneuverability, stable water entry and exit, efficient propulsion in air and water, payload capacity, and structural integrity.

PHASE I: Design and determine feasibility for the development of a Hybrid Unmanned Air / Underwater Vehicle (HUA/UV) that can fly in air and swim underwater to inspect an underwater object. An in depth analysis should identify the key parameters associated with the design of a proof of concept HUA/UV capable of carrying payloads of 10 to 30 pounds. The HUA/UV must be capable of transitioning from controlled stable flight in air to controlled stable flight underwater to water depths ranging from 5 to 40 feet.

PHASE II: Further develop and demonstrate a Hybrid Unmanned Air / Underwater Vehicle (HUA/UV) that can complete the following sequence for multiple underwater objects: 1. Mission Start: transit in air to a predetermined location on the surface of the water, 2. Object Inspection Start: enter the water, transit underwater to collect video imagery of the object, exit the water, and transit in air to another predetermined location on the surface of the water (repeat the inspection process for up to ten (10 objects), 3. Mission End: after inspection of the last underwater object transit in air back to the point of initial launch (end mission). The objects will be positioned in the water at depths ranging from five (5) feet to forty (40) feet. The HUA/UV must be operating under controlled, stable flight conditions and the imagery of the object should be provided to the operator in real-time. The system should be capable of carrying a payload of up to 30 pounds. The HUA/UV should be equipped with a video camera to inspect the underwater object and the necessary means of communicating to the operator in real-time (in air and underwater). An in-depth analysis should show the system trades of size, weight and power consumption for an operational system capable of carrying payloads up to 50 pounds, and expected mission times (as described above) to support operational missions.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: If Phase II is successful, the small business will provide support in transitioning the technology for Navy use. The small business will develop a plan to determine the effectiveness of the Hybrid Unmanned Air / Underwater Vehicle (HUA/UV) in an operational environment. The small business will support the Navy with certifying the HUA/UV for operational sustainability. As appropriate, the small business will focus on scaling up manufacturing capabilities and commercialization plans. There is commercial potential associated with the inspection of commercial waterways to prevent collisions with debris.


    • Hoffman, G., Huang, H., Waslander, S.L., Tomlin, C.J. (20–23 August 2007). "Quadrotor Helicopter Flight Dynamics And Control: Theory And Experiment". In The Conference Of The American Institute Of Aeronautics And Astronautics. Hilton Head, South Carolina.

    • A. Fabian, Y. Feng, E. Swartz, D. Thurmer, and R. Wang, “Hybrid aerial under water vehicle (mit lincoln lab),” SCOPE Projects Olin College of Engineering, Apr 2012.

    • Drews-Jr Paulo, Fernando Montenegro Campos, Mario, Alves Neto, Armando (September 2014). "Hybrid Unmanned Aerial Underwater Vehicle: Modeling and Simulation". Conference Paper

  • Demonstration of an Aerial and Submersible Vehicle Capable of Flight and Underwater Navigation with Seamless Air-Water Transition. Retrieved from:

KEYWORDS: Hybrid Unmanned Aerial Underwater Vehicle, Quadrotor Helicopter, Waterborne Improvised Explosive Devices, Mine Countermeasures, Unmanned Vehicle, Explosive Ordnance Disposal

  • TPOC-1: Brian Almquist
  • Email:
  • TPOC-2: Thomas McKenna
  • Email:

Questions may also be submitted through DoD SBIR/STTR SITIS website.


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