Top Secret Aquatic Drone Spotted on Google Maps

Map Mishap

The US military's experimental new aquatic drone may carry out stealthy missions in bodies of water the world over. But right now, it's become the easy target for Google Maps nerds, who've already found it unceremoniously sitting out in the open, The New York Post reports.

Known as Manta Ray, the uncrewed underwater vehicle can still be seen docked at Port Hueneme naval base in California, looking as out of place as an exotic sea creature that ended up as some fisherman's catch. Strike one, maybe, against whoever's in charge of operational security over there.

From this vantage point, it's easy to see where the craft got its name, with a design completely unlike the two conventional seafaring vessels it's wedged between.

Sized Up

Just how under wraps Manta Ray is meant to be is unclear. Earlier this month, its manufacturer Northrop Grumman officially showed it off  in on-board footage of the UUV sedately lurking in the waters off the Californian coast, during its first full-scale test.

But, as Axios noted, the military has been tight-lipped about Manta Ray's specific dimensions. With it being shown clear as day on Google Maps, it may not be a secret for much longer, with the two ships and piers in view providing easy reference points.

Just by eyeballing it, the Manta Ray is a fair bit wider than either vessel, but stubbier and nowhere near as long. We'll leave it to the math whizzes to puzzle together the rest.

Water Warrior

Here's what's officially known about Manta Ray so far. Its development was launched by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency in 2020 to give the US a leg-up in long-range and long-term underwater operations.

And so it's designed — unlike actual manta rays — to be able to "hibernate" for extended periods of time on the seafloor, operating at a low power mode that can maintain a deep, advantageous position without needing to refuel. Being uncrewed, there's none of the complications that human-ran submarines have, either.

The UUV is also designed to be modular, allowing it to be easily disassembled and repaired — and perhaps reconfigured, according to mission needs. Other details, like how it's powered and what ominous weapons it may soon wield, are unclear.

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