WEST BETHESDA, Md. - The Navy is developing ways to
recharge underwater unmanned vehicles (UUVs) using undersea wireless
The Navy uses UUVs for many types of missions, including
the location and identification of underwater threats such as mines, ocean
floor mapping, and optimizing remote sensing platforms. The ability to use
wireless technology to charge UUV batteries while underwater may significantly
decrease time between missions, improving overall utility.
"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," said Alex Askari, Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division
(NSWCCD) technical lead. This technology can be used on many different types of
NSWCCD supported Naval Undersea Warfare Center, Division
Newport (NUWC DIVNPT) in demonstrating this capability during the first-ever
Naval Technology Exercise (ANTX), Aug. 10-14 at the Stillwater Basin Test
facility in Newport, Rhode Island. ANTX is a weeklong showcase of Undersea
Constellation technology from NUWC DIVNPT, and Space and Naval Warfare Systems
Command SPAWAR Systems Center Pacific (SSC PAC).
NSWCCD previously executed a successful underwater
wireless energy transfer demonstration in a 6,000 gallon tank at its West
Bethesda, Maryland facility, June 29-July 3.
These concepts of wireless underwater energy transfer,
such as Forward Deployed Energy and Forward Deployed Energy and Communications
Outpost (FDECO), were born in NSWCCD's Disruptive Technologies Lab.
"We want to recharge a battery underwater through
wireless technology, and we want to know the batteries charge to the highest
fidelity," Mayer Nelson, NSWCCD technical project manager said. The NSWCCD
demonstration was a collaborative effort as Carderock hosted teams from NUWC
DIVNPT and SSC PAC.
"The NUWC team was on-hand to simulate the full
capabilities of the NUWC-developed Mid-sized Autonomous Research Vehicle (MARV)
UUV, as well as to provide assistance with testing," Joseph Curran, NSWCCD
integration lead said.
The MARV is 16.5 feet long and just slightly more than
one foot in diameter for testing different UUV programs and technologies.
Carderock Division's developed technology enables power
transmission between underwater systems, such as UUVs. During the main
demonstration on July 3, the team was successful in transferring power
wirelessly from an underwater docking station to a MARV UUV section, and
ultimately to the UUV's battery, which was charged at 2 kilowatts while
submerged, according to Nelson.
A battery State of Charge (SOC) program developed by Dr.
Michael Knauff, a Naval Ship Systems Engineering Station (NAVSSES) in
Philadelphia electrical engineer was integrated by Crystal Lutkenhouse, a
NSWCCD mechanical engineer.
"We tested a Carderock-developed algorithm and
pulled in data from the actual battery; then ran voltage, current and
temperature data through the data acquisition system," Knauff said.
During underwater energy transfer, this program was run using data that had been transferred wirelessly underwater using SSC PAC's underwater optical communications system and allowed an enhanced estimation of the charge on the battery through the SOC program.