Under the sea: Weaponised submarines and drone boats to help protect countries

Military submarines and boat drones that are able to carry and use weapons are to be developed by the UK.

This is intended to address the issue of maritime security and also boost the defence capabilities that are available for countries.

The areas of technology that are of interest include being able to ensure the navigational accuracy of the drones, as well as ensuring that all communications are secure.

The UK government also wants to be able to launch drones from a larger platform that is already at sea.

Private companies are being invited to submit proposals for the development of the military tech. A graphic (below) included in the guidance for applications identifies the desired  drones, including a version designed special operations.

Other uses include sea mine clearance and persistent wide area surveillance.

Funding has been announced for early proposals for ‘Maritime Autonomous Systems’ by the UK government. In the guidance for applications to create the systems, it says that the technologies will be able to help support people in increasingly complex defence and security environments.

Proposals will also enable infrastructure to be developed, as well creating economic benefits.


“Maritime Mission Systems may be defined as the set of integrated equipment and human resources that provide the capability maritime vessels (Ships and Submarines) require to conduct their operational tasks,” the guidance for proposals says.

“The scope of the definition includes vessels either operating alone or in consort with other maritime vessels, or with units in the land and air domains.

“Essential sub-systems include wide ranging technologies for sensors (e.g. sonar and radar), weapons, command and control systems, command information systems, communications and networks, navigation and geospatial/temporal referencing systems.

“The subsystems may be hosted organically on the platform itself or (as increasingly the case) deployed through off-board systems such as supervised and autonomous unmanned vehicles.”


However, the project is by no means the first to be looking at using autonomous devices at sea.

Earlier this year Rolls-Royce revealed its plans to create drone ships.

The company has been designing autonomous cargo ships since 2013 and believes it won’t be too long before they can be created.

However the company has said one of the hardest things that needs to be overcome is ensuring correct regulation is in place for them to be used.

As with all autonomous devices, there needs to be strict rules and security measures in place to avoid attacks from would-be virtual pirates.

Image two courtesy of Rolls Royce 

Fire in space: Astronauts create cool-burning flames that could lead to better car engines

The discovery of a new type of cool-burning flames could lead to cleaner, more efficient car engines.

In experiments, conducted by a team of international researchers on the International Space Station (ISS), droplets of heptane fuel were ignited in a wide range of environments, including air similar to the earth’s atmosphere as well as atmospheres diluted with nitrogen, carbon dioxide and helium.

The team, at first, believed the flames had extinguished themselves but sensors showed that the heptane was, in fact, still burning.

Forman Williams, a professor of mechanical and aerospace engineering at the University of California, San Diego, commented: “We observed something that we didn’t think could exist.”

The discovery could lead to the development of homogenous-charge compression ignition which could, for example, help improve internal combustion engines in cars. It could also lead to engines burning fuel at cooler temperatures, thus emitting fewer pollutants, while still being efficient.

The experiments are run by remote control from NASA’s John Glenn Research Center in Cleveland and the results are then analysed by a team of scientists from NASA, US San Diego, Princeton, Cornell and other universities.

The experiments occurred in the Multiuser Droplet Combustion Apparatus, which is found within the ISS’s Combustion Integrated Rack, an experimental facility about the size of a 5.5 foot bookcase and around 560 lbs in weight. Here, data is recorded and transmitted to the ground.

In the microgravity environment of the Multiuser Droplet Combustion Apparatus, droplets are generated and ignited from different fuels in varying atmospheric conditions.

It is because of this environment that researchers are allowed sufficient test time for cool flames to occur. The research will not work in other environments. “Things can happen out there that can’t happen here [on earth],” Williams said.

The researchers believe that the cool flames are a result of elementary chemical reactions which can only occur in the microgravity environment on the ISS, where there is no buoyancy, allowing gases enough time around the droplets for the chemistry to develop.

This chemical reaction is not possible on earth since burning fuel droplets, limited by buoyancy, only exist for a very short period of time.

For the cool flame combustion to occur on earth, future applications will need the right mix of fuels. Thus, NASA is planning a new series of experiments to look into this challenge, which is said to start next winter and continue for about a year.

Images courtesy of Nasa