Home » Manta Ray UUV Prototype Completes In-Water Testing

Manta Ray UUV Prototype Completes In-Water Testing

by tashan

On May 1, 2024, DARPA announced a significant milestone with the successful in-water testing of the Manta Ray prototype uncrewed underwater vehicle (UUV) off the coast of Southern California. Developed by Northrop Grumman, this full-scale testing demonstrated the Manta Ray’s advanced hydrodynamic performance, including submerged operations using its various propulsion and steering modes such as buoyancy, propellers, and control surfaces.

Modular Capabilities and Efficient Deployment

The Manta Ray UUV stands out for its modular design, allowing it to be rapidly assembled from subsections in the field. This modularity was showcased as Northrop Grumman transported the prototype from Maryland to California in separate parts, facilitating ease of shipping and assembly. This capability supports the possibility of rapid deployment worldwide without occupying valuable pier space at naval facilities.

Dr. Kyle Woerner, DARPA’s program manager for Manta Ray, highlighted the advantages of this approach, stating, “Our successful, full-scale Manta Ray testing validates the vehicle’s readiness to advance toward real-world operations after being rapidly assembled in the field from modular subsections.” This modular design and ease of transportation conserve energy that would otherwise be spent during transit, allowing the vehicle to use buoyancy-driven gliding for efficient movement through the water.

Versatile Payload Bays and Mission Capabilities

The Manta Ray UUV is designed with several payload bays of varying sizes and types, enabling a wide range of naval missions. This versatility makes it suitable for long-duration, long-range operations in dynamic maritime environments. DARPA is currently collaborating with the U.S. Navy to determine the next steps for testing and transitioning this technology into operational use.

In addition to Northrop Grumman’s efforts, a second Manta Ray performer, PacMar Technologies, is continuing to test its full-scale energy harvesting system throughout 2024.

Future Prospects

The successful testing of the Manta Ray prototype marks a pivotal step in the development of next-generation UUVs capable of persistent operations. This innovative technology promises to enhance the operational capabilities of the U.S. Navy and other maritime forces, providing a robust platform for various underwater missions.

For more detailed information, you can read the full DARPA announcement here.


Manta Ray vehicle on the surface between test dives off the coast of Southern California (photo courtesy of Northrop Grumman).

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