This solicitation is now closed
Autonomous Tank and Void Inspection Technique
Navy SBIR 2011.1 - Topic N111-058
NAVSEA - Mr. Dean Putnam -
Opens: December 13, 2010 - Closes: January 12, 2011

N111-058 TITLE: Autonomous Tank and Void Inspection Technique

TECHNOLOGY AREAS: Materials/Processes, Sensors, Electronics


OBJECTIVE: To reduce the costs associated with maintenance and inspection of the preservation systems and substrate material of all varieties of tanks and voids.

DESCRIPTION: Aircraft Carriers have thousands of tanks for the storage and distribution of numerous fluids including sea-water, fresh water, JP-5, gray water, and lube oil. In addition there are hundreds of dry voids or isolated, unused spaces. Both tanks and voids present significant corrosion challenges to the Fleet and are one of Aircraft Carriers’ most costly maintenance concerns.

All shipboard tanks and voids have a preservation system applied that requires periodic repair or complete replacement. While a number of tanks are re-coated on a scheduled, periodic basis the Navy has realized considerable cost savings by moving to a condition-based maintenance strategy. Therefore the preservation coating and structural condition of each and every tank on the ship must be inspected by trained personnel every few years.

Due to the design of an Aircraft Carrier, many of these tanks are small, confined spaces of irregular shapes that are a 3-dimensional maze of structural steel that may contain a hazardous fluid or toxic environment. Agile, trained inspectors are required to enter the tanks with several pieces of gear climbing through myriad manholes and narrow passageways in order to inspect and document the condition of every square-inch of surface of that tank. Additionally, requirements to gas free engineer these spaces requires additional manpower and effort, and reduces the flexibility to conduct other maintenance simultaneously.

Developing a method to autonomously inspect tanks and voids could reduce costs greatly, reduce hazards for the inspectors, and provide better consistency in assessments. A means to remotely or autonomously inspect every square-inch of these irregular spaces will prove greatly beneficial to the Aircraft Carrier Fleet, the entire Navy, and possibly commercial shipbuilding as well. Irregularly shaped tanks or voids, confined spaces, and hazardous material interaction have long prevented successful implementation of inspection in the military, sea-going arena.

All associated equipment entering a tank or void needs to be intrinsically safe, spark-proof, waterproof, and must have a method of relaying data through steel tank walls, which may be difficult to overcome in the "dead zones" aboard the ship. Equipment should also be ruggedized to ensure successful operation in a harsh marine environment, as well as physical contact with hazardous fluid (fuel, oil, etc.). Additionally, any equipment will need to be able to be placed by a single operator into the tank or void (maximum 50 pounds), through an 18-inch square access panel. Software needs to be compatible with current network infrastructure, and capable of operation by a Sailor aboard the ship.

PHASE I: Develop a concept proposal for a portable tank and void inspection method to be utilized on Aircraft Carriers. The ability to review and record the inspection results will be critical to a proposal’s success.

PHASE II: Generate a full-scale working demonstration model of the tank and void inspection method and associated equipment. Once success is attained in the land-based environment, demonstrate operability onboard an Aircraft Carrier. Correct any shortcomings noted in the shipboard demonstration. Develop the capacity for full-scale manufacturing, including special tools. Develop the capacity for logistics support including provisioning, technical documentation, drawings, operating instructions, and training.

PHASE III: Conduct full-scale manufacturing, Fleet introduction and fielding, training as necessary.

PRIVATE SECTOR COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL/DUAL-USE APPLICATIONS: Commercial ship inspections, industrial equipment inspection.

1. CCIMS Manual
2. NSTM Chapter 631

KEYWORDS: inspection, preservation, corrosion, confined spaces, autonomous, robot

DoD Notice:  
Between November 10 and December 12, 2010, you may talk directly with the Topic Authors to ask technical questions about the topics. Their contact information is listed above. For reasons of competitive fairness, direct communication between proposers and topic authors is
not allowed starting December 13, 2011, when DoD begins accepting proposals for this solicitation.
However, proposers may still submit written questions about solicitation topics through the DoD's SBIR/STTR Interactive Topic Information System (SITIS), in which the questioner and respondent remain anonymous and all questions and answers are posted electronically for general viewing until the solicitation closes. All proposers are advised to monitor SITIS (11.1 Q&A) during the solicitation period for questions and answers, and other significant information, relevant to the SBIR 11.1 topic under which they are proposing.

If you have general questions about DoD SBIR program, please contact the DoD SBIR Help Desk at (866) 724-7457 or email weblink.