Boeing Echo Seeker is the Autonomous Submarine of the Future

Putting a human at the bottom of the ocean makes for an expensive and dangerous mission, whether it be for ocean mapping, oil surveying, or shipwreck hunting. Engineering giant Boeing is working to make that sort of undersea exploration more cost-efficient…and a lot less dangerous.  The answer is the autonomous submarine, and this is the firm’s latest self-driving sub, the “Echo Seeker.” Measuring in at 32 feet long, Echo Seeker is the the younger, larger brother of Boeing’s original Echo Ranger autonomous sub, built in the early 2000s. The new iteration not only adds size to the equation, but it increases carrying capacity to 6,000 pounds. It can dive to depths of 20,000 feet for three days at a time, and it operates completely on its own while submersed. There’s no tether to a mothership or line-of-sight communication to be seen here. It's really on its own. RELATED: There's Finally a Personal Submarine Than Anyone Could Afford
RELATED: This Supercharged, Dolphin-Shaped Submarine is the Ultimate Toy According to Wired, a sizable bank of silver-zinc batteries power the craft along across the ocean floor, allowing it to collect data. The Echo Seeker can keep chugging for up to 265 miles without recharging. If something does go wrong, auxiliary and backup systems are in place to allow the Echo Seeker to resurface safely. Additionally, the sub can also drop anchor at the bottom of the ocean and go into down-powered mode in case immediate retrieval isn’t possible, which is slightly creepy. What does an autonomous sub think about at the bottom of the ocean? As referenced in the video above, Echo Seekers could be offered for sale to commercial and military customers alike. Expect more variants to follow too. Lance Towers, director of Boeing Advanced Technology Programs, notes that better technology will allow future generations to tote even more underwater capability, longer mission durations, larger payloads, and greater levels of autonomy. RELATED: Meet the "Submarine" Race Car Designed to Save You in a Crash