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NEW NAVY "MASTER PLAN" FOR DRONES

lmrs.JPGThe U.S. Navy is junking its old blueprints for undersea robots, and is putting together a new "master plan" for its unmanned vehicles, National Defense magazine reports."Ambitious plans to spread UUVs (unmanned underwater vehicles) across the fleet have been toned down by the complexity of the technology and soaring costs," the magazine says.The long-range mine reconnaissance system, or LMRS, appears to be the first casualty. In development since 1999, the torpedo-size LMRS is search for mines. But now, the Navy thinks that the drones are too limited -- tackling only the mine-hunting job -- for the price -- $20 to $30 million for a two-vehicle system, with battery packs that cost $250,000 a pop.So instead, the Navy is looking at tiny drones (maybe as little as 21 inches long) that can handle a variety of underwater duties, from surveillance to navigation to communications relay.The Navy's revised drone strategy should be finished in about a year, National Defense says.

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