The fastest way to move a submarine is through the air. At least, that’s the logic behind “Flimmer,” a new flying and swimming duck drone currently in development by the Naval Research Laboratory. Profiled in the winter issue of Spectra, the NRL’s magazine, Flimmer may go beyond a weird name and become a powerful submarine-tracking tool.
While it might be inspired by a duck, Flimmer certainly isn’t built like one. It has fins hidden on the ends of its wings, like a cubist’s suggestion of what duck-ness might really be. In flight, these fins fold upwards to stabilize the craft, and a pusher propeller at the back of the Flimmer provides thrust. In the water, the rear fins, as well as a second pair further up the body, steer the robot. Flimmer can not only fly through the air and swim, but it can make the transition between the two easily. On smooth seas, it can land like a seaplane, but for rougher conditions where that’s not possible, Flimmer will dive into the water like a duck.
The latest version of Flimmer is an aerodynamic fish called the Flying WANDA. (WANDA comes from the Navy’s fish-mimicking “Wrasse-inspired Agile Near-shore Deformable-fin Automaton,” and, presumably, is named after a 1988 John Cleese film). In tests, WANDA could go as fast as 57 miles per hour while flying, and just 11 miles per hour in the water.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com