Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects engineering hydrology and hydraulics with global, economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student Lukas Matt makes this connection here…

The news article, “Submarine-hunting drones take off and land on water vertically” was reported by David Hambling in the New Scientist online news on April 6, 2016. The news relates to the WRE domain of hydrology issues with safety, timing and expenses related with field measurements during floods.  In summary this article reports on new drone technologies called AQUA-QUAD and CRACUNS that are in the prototype stages that will be used for tracking enemy submarines as well collecting ocean/freshwater data. The AQUA-QUAD is solar powered, can be deployed from and land on water surfaces, and is designed to withstand a harsh ocean environment.  The CRACUNS drone has different benefits than the AQUA-QUAD as it is designed to handle high pressures and function hundreds of feet deep (Moon, 2016). As shown in figure 1 below, testing was recently completed by Dr. Kevin Jones and his Naval Postgraduate school team (Moon, 2016).  Based upon my knowledge this article portrayed accurate and necessary design considerations.  With deep water there are large heads of pressures that can crush the drone and that is why material and structure support were a major consideration for CRACUNS. Also the influence of saltwater was a major consideration as it can cause corrosion issues.  This applies to my understanding of salt corrosion in pipes for desalinization plants and the promotion of corrosion on many upstate New York vehicles from salted roadways.  Based upon critical thinking on the news story the information missing was other applications for the drone besides replacing NAVY sonobuoys and more specifics on the design considerations.  The news story misses the broader scope of applications that this device can be used for.

The issues with safety for field workers and the community, as well as the cost to send people into the field have both societal and economic impacts.  In flooding situations it can be extremely dangerous and expensive to deploy workers into the field for data collection.  This data is critical to supplement models so that the proper flood mitigation strategies are used. The data can be collected by these drones through the use of sensors or cameras, which can include physical, chemical and biological data.   In the article some specific applications included monitoring ocean temperatures and acidity (Hambling, 2016).  There are socio-economic advantages of deploying and getting to the site faster, having little to no energy cost with solar power and not having to send people out into the field during disaster situations.  In a journal by the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) the economics was put this way, “With shrinking government funding, and an expanding need for state and local governments to do more with less, the use of drones can become an easy and cost effective way for government to stay ahead of the workload and innovate, providing more service with fewer resources (ASCE, 2015).”  The cause-effect between faster data collection and socio-economics is as follows – when on-site information can be received faster, proper mitigation techniques can be implemented faster, therefore saving infrastructure, lives and money.



Figure 1: Pictures of field testing of the AQUA-QUAD drone by the Dr. Kevin Jones in the ocean.  On the upper left image one can see the solar photovoltaic cells located at the center of the drone (Jones, 2015).


Figure 2: Picture of the built prototype of the CRACUNS drone (Dash, 2016).



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Brown, G. (2016, March 31). Release the CRACUNS: APL develops drone that can operate in the air or underwater. Retrieved from http://hub.jhu.edu/2016/03/31/cracuns-underwater-air-drone-apl

Dash, S. (2016, March 18). Meet CRACUNS: A drone that can be launched from       underwater. Retrieved from http://www.crazyengineers.com/threads/meet-cracuns-a-drone-that-can-be-launched-from-underwater.87766/

Hambling, D. (2016, April 16). Submarine-hunting drones take off and land on water vertically. Retrieved from https://www.newscientist.com/article/2083345-submarine-hunting-drones-take-off-and-land-on-water-vertically/

Jones, K. (2015). Development and testing of the AQUA -QUAD. CRUSER News, (58), 3-4.

Moon, M. (2016, April 7). US Navy’s solar drone flies from and lands on water. Retrieved from http://www.engadget.com/2016/04/07/us-navy-solar-aqua-quad-drone/

Smith, K. (2015). The use of drones in environmental management. American Society of Civil Engineers. doi:10.1061/9780784479162.133