A bit about Bluefin-21

Hearing about the search for that airliner lost in the southern ocean, I got curious about the submarine they are using.


I was sort of hoping it was one of the amazing beasts that comes out of the the UK National Oceanographic Centre in Southampton – called Autosubs, some of which can function at 6km depth.

However, it looks like it is a – I am sure equally worthy – Bluefin 21 from Bluefin Robotocs in Massachusetts – founded by engineers from the MIT.

Purely scraped from the website and edited a bit, here is the submarine in a nutshell:

Sidescan sonar image from Bluefin-21Optional 455 kHz side scan sonar provides 10cm resolution along track and a 7.5cm resolution across track out to 75m, and up to 150m with reduced resolution.

Self-contained inertial navigation plus compass for <0.5% error

Diameter 53cm
Length 4.93m
Dry weight 750kg
Depth Rating 4.5km
Endurance 25hr at 3knots with standard payload
Max speed 4.5knots
Energy 13.5kWh Li-po, pressure-tolerant
Propulsion Steerable ducted thruster
Navigation Inertial ≤ 0.1%
Antenna GPS, RF, Iridium
Communications RF, Iridium, acoustic.
Ethernet via cable out of water
Self-protection Independently powered fault and leak detection,
drop-weight increases standard 7.3kg buoyancy,
acoustic transponder, light strobe, RDF and Iridium.
Software GUI-based operator tools
Data 4Gbyte flash drive for vehicle data
+ payload storage
Payload options EdgeTech 2200-M 120/410kHz side scan sonar
EdgeTech 230/850kHz dynamically focused
EdgeTech DW-216 sub-bottom profiler
Reson 7125 400kHz multi-beam echosounder



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