The US Navy is developing a duck-like drone, the Flimmer (Flying Swimmer), that can both fly and swim. The drone, it says, can reach operational areas more quickly by flying over the surface of the water.
In addition to both a rear-facing propeller and wings, its latest incarnation has four fins that adapt to what the robotic craft is doing.
In flight, they serve as stabilizers and canard wings; in the sea, they flap to give the machine a speed boost.
After successfully examining the performance of a “Test Sub” that combined a traditional submarine shape with a traditional aircraft shape, scientists applied their findings to a flying version of the Naval Research Laboratory
(NRL)’s WANDA (Wrasse-inspired Agile Near-shore Deformable-fin Automaton ) drone.
NRL wants to perfect the Flying WANDA model's landing technique so that it can dive into choppy seas, for one thing. If the project pans out, though, the Navy won't have to rely quite so much on stationary sonar buoys to watch out for enemy subs -- they can simply send out a few drones and have them move when an area is clear.
Tests have been running for some time now, and the latest version of Flimmer the Navy is “playing” with is an aerodynamic fish called the Flying WANDA. The name comes from the Navy’s fish-mimicking “Wrasse-inspired Agile Near-shore Deformable-fin Atuomaton.” In tests, WANDA could reach speeds of up to 57 mph while flying, and just 11 miles per hour in the water.
According to the NRL’s Spectra magazine, “Flying WANDA” has four fins and a wing, with the two aft fins mounted on the tips of the wing. Test flights confirmed Flying WANDA’s stability and control, and scientists have started testing the most effective “landing mode,” or splashdown, to protect the fin mechanisms.