Underwater drone set to explore sunken aircraft carrier site

UW drone

By Amber Lee - KTVU

It was an unusual sight at Pillar Point Harbor in Half Moon Bay on Tuesday as scientists prepared to use state of the art technology to survey a shipwreck.

A bright yellow underwater drone called the Echo Ranger made by Boeing is there being prepared for a special mission.

Scientists and a historian from across the country have gathered to use state of the art technology to survey a shipwreck.

Crews are preparing for the launch of the Echo Ranger. It will be unmanned, depending solely on a computer program to survey the USS Independence, an aircraft carrier scuttled by the U.S. Navy in 1951.

"To get as detailed sense as we can in doing three dimensional sonar mapping the wreck of the biggest deepest shipwreck we have in the National Marine Sanctuary," said James Delgado, NOAA's chief scientist for the USS Independence Mission.

Researchers have already pinpointed the ship's location 30 miles off Pillar Point Harbor and 3,000 feet underwater. NOAA is partnering with Boeing in this mission.

For the past week and as recently as Monday afternoon, the research team conducted multiple test launches. On Tuesday afternoon, there was more preparation work including testing different components to ensure that even if the computer program fails, the Echo Ranger will surface

It is an expensive piece of equipment worth millions of dollars. Scientists say the Echo Ranger will help them figure out what's left of the 600-hundred foot aircraft carrier.

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