The US Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) has awarded a contract to Nauticus Robotics to develop an amphibious drone to support mine-hunting operations.

As part of the agreement, the company will modify an off-the-shelf unmanned system to allow it to traverse sea or land during operations.

Nauticus will also integrate its “ToolKITT” autonomy software to guide the modified robot in identifying undersea mines and avoiding potential obstacles.

“If you only could crawl on the bottom in the sand [and] you came upon a log or an impediment to going forward, you don’t know if you should turn right or left,” company official Donnelly Bohan told Breaking Defense. “Our technology would allow you to, you know, just swim over it.”

Although the value of the contract was not disclosed, Nauticus said it could receive follow-on production contracts without further competition.

‘Man Out of the Minefield’

The contract awarded to Nauticus is the latest from the US Department of Defense to develop safe mine-hunting operations by taking the “man out of the minefield.”

The Pentagon wants to utilize unmanned and autonomous vehicles to find and neutralize undersea mines without risking soldiers’ lives.

Nauticus’ amphibious drone will be designed to maintain pressure against the seafloor and gain enough traction to either “swim” or “crawl.”

It will also have high-performance sensors to detect debris and other items that might get in the drone’s way while navigating underwater.

“We are thrilled with the additional work the DIU and the US Marine Corps have awarded us to continue providing leading maritime robotics and autonomy solutions to assist the warfighter,” Nauticus director Ed Tovar said.

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“We are humbled and honored to be doing our part to advance the usage of robotics and autonomous systems to remove servicemembers from harm’s way.”