An underwater drone that Northrop Grumman was using to conduct sonar research in the Chesapeake Bay was caught this month by a local waterman, the defense contractor said Thursday.
Northrop spokesman Andrew Haltzel said the autonomous undersea vehicle had completed its mission and surfaced in the water north of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge on Nov. 5.
A team from the company was on its way to pick it up when a fisherman hauled it out of the water, he said.
The waterman, identified by the Kent County News as David Haas, could not be reached for comment. He told the News that his crew was crabbing near the bay bridge when they lifted the drone from the water.
His wife, Laurie Haas, told the News the drone was about 7 feet long and painted yellow.
"It was a neat catch," she said. "I don't think David has ever caught anything like that before."
Haltzel declined to provide details on the company's research or how often it operates drones beneath the surface of the bay. Northrop Grumman has an office in Annapolis focused on undersea systems.
The Chesapeake Bay is a hub for drone research. The Navy uses its air station at Patuxent River to test cutting-edge unmanned systems for the military. The University of Maryland uses its test site in Southern Maryland to explore civilian applications. But most of the work has focused on aircraft, not undersea vehicles.
The Department of Defense is considering ways to use submersible drones to hunt for submarines.