This solicitation is now closed
Small Unmanned Surface Vehicle Propulsion System
Navy SBIR 2012.1 - Topic N121-054
NAVSEA - Mr. Dean Putnam -
Opens: December 12, 2011 - Closes: January 11, 2012

N121-054 TITLE: Small Unmanned Surface Vehicle Propulsion System

TECHNOLOGY AREAS: Ground/Sea Vehicles

ACQUISITION PROGRAM: PMS 406, Modular Unmanned Surface Craft Littoral; non-ACAT

OBJECTIVE: The objective is to develop a propulsion system and energy storage system for a small, man-portable USV (X-class, per the 2007 Navy’s USV Master Plan) that simultaneously achieves competing requirements for low size and weight, high speed, and long endurance.

DESCRIPTION: A man-portable USV propulsion and energy storage system must be suitable for military operations. It must be durable and robust to withstand repeated operations over the expected life of the vehicle. The Navy is seeing innovation in new and exotic materials and technologies that can produce high-speed, lightweight, and durable energy storage and propulsion systems for USVs. In addition to propulsive power, the system will be used to provide electrical power to payloads and sensors, and this must be considered in developing the system.

A need currently exists for Naval forces to conduct Intelligence, Surveillance, and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions in the shallow water and riparian environments. These missions include real-time monitoring of suspicious vessels, personnel, and activity along waterways, along the shoreline, or under bridges and piers. A "point man" to run ahead of manned, host craft is required to search for improvised explosive devices (IEDs), to locate enemy threats, and to survey the hydrographics of the waterway. One materiel solution to meet these needs is a small, man-portable unmanned surface vehicle (USV) with an ISR sensor suite. USVs reduce risk to manned forces, perform tedious and repetitive ISR tasks, and provide force multiplication. An X-class USV can easily be transported, deployed, and recovered from host craft during missions.

The Navy has identified requirements for a militarized, man-portable USV with ISR sensors, capable of high speeds and long endurance missions. However, when developing the propulsion and energy system for such a craft, the objectives of small size and weight, high speed, and long endurance compete with each other in the design space and usually drive trade-offs in performance with each other. Consequently, optimizing the design presents challenges for technical innovation given state-of-the-art and current Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) technologies, especially in the small scales required for an X-class USV. For example, small, lightweight, remote controlled (RC) boats achieve very high speeds, but endurance is measured in minutes. Additionally, such RC boat propulsion systems are not robust for a military environment. Efficiencies of these systems are typically poor, batteries provide limited power, and fuels are too volatile for military use. On the other hand, commercially available personal watercraft and jet skis are capable of high speeds and endurance, but are heavy and not man-portable. The optimization of small size/weight, high speed, and long endurance, coupled with robustness and reliability, requires an innovative solution for an X-class USV. Additionally, for operator safety reasons, no open propellers can be used. The use of volatile fuels such as gasoline, hydrogen, propane, methanol, or similar fuels cannot be permitted. Electric or multi-fuel (Diesel fuel marine, JP5, or JP8) variants are acceptable.

Proposals for new or alternate hull forms will not be considered under this topic and will be treated as non-responsive. Proposals must be based on the assumption of a basic, prismatic planing hullform.

For reference, the current point design described below is representative of one craft:
• Length Overall: 66 in.
• Breadth Overall: 24 in.
• Total Craft Weight (inclusive of hull, propulsion, energy storage, sensors): 86 lbs
- Total Structural Weight: 16 lbs
- Payload Weight: 20 - 30 lbs
- Propulsion and energy storage system weight (including fuel): not to exceed 40 lbs

Propulsion and energy system should be developed to power a craft with representative size and weight listed above, and the following performance parameters:
• Unrefueled endurance: 6 hours (threshold), 12 hours (objective)
• Speeds: loiter less than 5 knots, 15 knots cruise speed with burst speeds up to 25 knots
• Operational speed profile: 10% loiter / 20% sprint / 70% cruise
• Annual operating hours: 600 hrs
• Temperature, Ambient: 40 to 140°F
• Operating environment: Riverine (fresh, brackish, and salt water)
• Wave height: 0 – 1 ft
• Cooling water take-off
• Reversing capability
• Efficiency: Overall Propulsion Coefficient (OPC) greater than 40%
• Expected nominal power required for sensors and hotel services: 80W

PHASE I: Develop concepts for a man-portable USV propulsion and energy storage system. Provide convincing evidence of the feasibility of the concepts with regard to reliability, capability to survive the marine environment, and suitability for military use. Demonstrate the feasibility of developing the concepts into technology that can be used by the Navy in a man-portable USV. Provide supporting analyses to optimize competing, priority requirements for small size and weight, high speed, and long endurance. Define system architectures and identify key material items. Perform bench top experimentation where applicable to demonstrate concepts. Develop a conceptual design that addresses the needs and parameters provided in the topic description. Prepare a development plan for Phase II with performance goals and key technical milestones.

PHASE II: Based on the results of Phase I and the Phase II development plan, build a prototype for laboratory evaluation. Evaluate the prototype in a laboratory environment to determine its potential in meeting the performance goals defined in Phase I and the discussed in the topic description. Refine the prototype and evaluate operation in a representative environment using a Government furnished USV hull and provide results. Develop a cost benefit analysis and a Phase III installation, testing, and validation plan.

PHASE III: If Phase II is successful, the small business will be expected to support the Navy in transitioning the technology to Navy use should a Phase III award be made. Based on the Phase II results, the small business will develop a full-scale prototype and install onboard a Government selected USV. Conduct extended testing to verify USV capabilities in an operational environment. Support qualification and certification for Navy use and integration into USVs.

PRIVATE SECTOR COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL/DUAL-USE APPLICATIONS: Potential applications of a small USV propulsion system exist for research institutions (universities, NOAA), oil and gas industries, hydrographic and environmental surveys, and search and rescue operations (life guards).

1. U.S. Navy USV Master Plan.

2. Hollosi, C., Jane’s Unmanned Maritime Vehicles and Systems, Issue Four. IHS Global Limited, 2010.

3. MacPherson, Donald M., Reliable Speed Prediction: Propulsion Analysis and a Calculation Example.

4. Kularatna, N. Rechargeable batteries and battery management systems design. Proceedings from IECON 2010

KEYWORDS: Lightweight propulsion; lightweight energy storage; unmanned surface vehicles; long endurance; X-class USV; high speed

DoD Notice:  
Between November 9 and December 11, 2011, 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 12, 2011, when DoD begins accepting proposals for this solicitation.
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