27 August 2015
The US Navy is developing methods to recharge underwater unmanned vehicles (UUVs) with the support of undersea wireless technology, in a bid to reduce time between missions and enhance overall utility.
The UUVs are used for missions, including the location and identification of underwater threats, such as mines, ocean floor mapping, and optimising remote sensing platforms.
Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock Division (NSWCCD) technical lead Alex Askari said: "Underwater data and energy transfer are expected to multiply the effectiveness of navy-operated UUVs and other unmanned platforms by providing a vehicle-agnostic method for autonomous underwater energy charging."
The wireless underwater energy transfer concepts, including forward deployed energy and forward deployed energy and communications outpost (FDECO), were initially developed in NSWCCD's Disruptive Technologies Lab.
During a recent demonstration, the Carderock Division team was able to transfer power wirelessly from an underwater docking station to a mid-sized autonomous research vehicle (MARV) UUV section, and ultimately to the UUV's battery.
NSWCCD integration lead Joseph Curran said: "The NUWC team was on-hand to simulate the full capabilities of the NUWC-developed MARV UUV, as well as to provide assistance with testing."
The underwater energy transfer programme was performed using data that is transferred wirelessly underwater using SSC PAC's underwater optical communications system. It allowed an enhanced estimation of the charge on the battery through the SOC programme.
In July, the US Navy reportedly launched and recovered an underwater drone from its USS North Dakota submarine, which is said to be its first such mission.
Since 1970s, the navy has used unmanned vehicles for training purposes to replicate enemy submarines. The UUVs were also used to detect mines and map the ocean floor.