In the present study, the drag-reducing effect of sprayed superhydrophobic surfaces (SHSs) is determined for two external turbulent boundary layer (TBL) flows. We infer the modification of skin friction created beneath TBLs using near-wall laser Doppler velocity measurements for a series of tailored SHSs. Measurements of the near-wall Reynolds stresses were used to infer reduction in skin friction between 8%and 36%in the channel flow. The best candidate SHS was then selected for application on a towed submersible body with a SUBOFF profile. The SHS was applied to roughly 60% of the model surface over the parallel midbody of the model. The measurements of the towed resistance showed an average decrease in the overall resistance from 2% to 12% depending on the speed and depth of the towed model, which suggests a SHS friction drag reduction of 4–24% with the application of the SHS on the model. The towed model results are consistent with the expected drag reduction inferred from the measurements of a near-zero pressure gradient TBL channel flow.
Nature has provided a plethora of materials to be studied and mimicked for everyday applications (Jung & Bhushan 2010). One material pertinent for use in the marine environment is the lotus leaf, which is known for its self-cleansing properties and resistance to wetting (Neinhuis & Barthlott 1997). More specifically, lotus-inspired superhydrophobic surfaces (SHSs) have been biomimetically developed for skin friction reduction in various flow applications (Bhushan et al. 2009; Samaha et al. 2012). Being exhaustively studied in small-scale laminar flows (see Rothstein  for a review of SHS drag reduction and slip on SHSs), advances in the design and fabrication of SHSs have permitted application of these materials in more naval-relevant flows. Previously, it has been shown that in laminar flow, SHSs can reduce drag (Watanabe et al. 1999; Ou et al. 2004; Ou & Rothstein 2005; Zhao et al. 2007; Daniello et al. 2009; Woolford et al. 2009), and in low–Reynolds number turbulent flows, SHS drag reduction has been observed using small-scale, structured surfaces and large air–water interfaces (Henoch et al. 2006; Daniello et al. 2009; Park et al. 2014). However, these surfaces, in higher turbulence flows, can be unstable or become wetted. If the SHS possesses roughness features with small scales compared with the viscous length scale of the flow, researchers have demonstrated SHS friction drag reduction for wall-bounded, high–Reynolds number turbulent flows (Zhao et al. 2007; Aljallis et al. 2013; Bidkar et al. 2014; Golovin et al. 2016; Ling et al. 2016b; Gose et al. 2018a).