Safe High Density Undersea Power Source
Navy SBIR 2016.1 - Topic N161-030
NAVSEA - Mr. Dean Putnam -
Opens: January 11, 2016 - Closes: February 17, 2016

N161-030 TITLE: Safe High Density Undersea Power Source

TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Battlespace, Electronics, Sensors

ACQUISITION PROGRAM: PMS 485, Maritime Surveillance Systems, Distributed Systems Group (DSG)

OBJECTIVE: Develop a high power density source required for longer system life of an autonomous undersea surveillance system.

DESCRIPTION: The Shallow Water Surveillance System (SWSS), AN/WQR-5, is a new type of Distributed/Netted System (DNS) acoustic sensor technology that autonomously detects and reports submerged contacts. This topic seeks novel power sources that can provide electrical energy to SWSS for as long as technologically feasible to achieve enhanced performance. The envisioned power source will directly reduce total operating cost by decreasing the number of SWSS units required over the duration of the surveillance mission.

Currently, the SWSS program uses a Li-CFx/MnO2 (Lithium-Carbon Monofluoride/Manganese Dioxide) battery chemistry and each D-cell (930 total) has the capacity of 16Ah (at approximately 250mA). The SWSS battery volume is limited to 4154 in3 (18.91 in diameter x 12.5 in height + 18.077 in diameter x 2.5 in height). Current total power is 39kWh @ 27 volts average with 23A peak current.

In order to increase warfighter capabilities, the SWSS program is looking for an innovative higher density power source to enhance and specifically increase overall system persistence. This will reduce the number of systems deployed to provide the same area coverage, over the mission life. This power source requires innovation in design and construction, and must be compliant with Navy safety standards. Reference (1) provides the Standard Practice for Department of Defense System Safety, references (2), (3) and (4) discuss the Navy’s Lithium Battery Safety Program and reference (5) is the Unmanned Systems Guide for DoD Acquisition.

A successful submission will supply 100-120 kWh at 27 volts average with 23A peak current in total power operating at continental shelf depths greater than 100 feet. Possible solutions could include a seawater battery, which is inert until activation in seawater, or some other means such as a microbial fuel cell, which will provide the Navy with a safer delivery module for autonomous undersea power. References (6) through (9) discuss additional technical information for the problem. Additionally, the SWSS program office is seeking a 15% cost reduction over the Li-CFx/MnO2 battery currently used in the SWSS.

Standard methods and technology available today rely on lead-acid, alkaline, or lithium batteries to deliver energy. However, the lithium battery has become a major safety concern and increasingly difficult to get Navy and commercial certified for military use and limits additional deployment options that include commercial transport due to existing safety guidelines. References (2) through (4) establish the stringent safety guidelines for the selection, design, testing, evaluation, use, packaging, storage, transportation, and disposal of lithium batteries. The small volume available to host the power source inside the SWSS node must hold sufficient energy to power the system for as long as technologically feasible. This will save deployment and procurement costs of SWSS. While SWSS represents the primary transition opportunity for an innovative new power source, the technology may also be integrated into future PMS 485 Distributed Systems Group (DSG) programs to include both shallow and deep water Distributed Netted Sensor (DNS) systems and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs).

PHASE I: Develop a concept for a safe high-density undersea power source that meets the requirements as stated in the description section. The small business will validate the concept and demonstrate the feasibility via analytical modeling and a limited lab demonstration. Phase I Option, if awarded, would include the initial layout and capabilities description to build the unit in Phase II.

PHASE II: Based on the results of Phase I and the Phase II Statement of Work (SOW), the small business will develop and deliver a prototype and design for a safe high-density undersea power source for evaluation. The prototype will demonstrate that it can meet Navy safety standards and SWSS requirements as defined in the Phase II SOW. Performance will be demonstrated at the small businesses’ laboratory facilities or at a facility that is commercially available.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: The small business will be expected to support the Navy with integrating the safe, high-density undersea power source into SWSS. The small business will finalize design and fabricate production prototypes to power SWSS or a designated transition Program of Record (PoR) for as long as technologically feasible so that the PoR can achieve the required performance specifications. The small business will support safety certification and validation testing for unlimited Navy use to include testing at a government facility authorized for certification at the cost of the PoR sponsor (PMS 485). The safe high-density undersea power source will be useful in any undersea application that needs safe high-density power that is certified for transport on naval vessels and commercial aircraft. Specifically, autonomous undersea vehicles could benefit the gas and oil industry as well as Department of Homeland Security in monitoring ports and coastal waters.


1. Standard Practice for Systems Safety (MIL-STD-882E.)

2. NAVSEA Technical Manual S9310-AQ-SAF-010, Second Revision.

3. NAVSEA Instruction 9310.1B.

4. Banner, J; Winchester, C.; Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, "Lithium Battery Safety in Support of Operational Fielding of Unmanned Underwater Vehicles",

5. Unmanned Systems Guide for DoD Acquisition.

6. Mendez, Alejandro; Leo, Teresa J.; Herreros, Miguel A., "Current State of Technology of Fuel Cell Power Systems for Autonomous Underwater Vehicles", MDPI Open Access Journals (2014.)

7. Yuh, J.; "Design and Control of Autonomous Underwater Robots: A Survey", Autonomous Robots, Kluwer Academic Publishers (2000.)

8. Swider-Lyons, Karen E.; Carlin, Richard T.; Rosenfeld, Robert L.; Nowak, Robert J.; "Technical Issues and Opportunities for Fuel Cell Development for Autonomous Underwater Vehicles", Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Applications Center (2002.)

KEYWORDS: Undersea vehicle power; safe, high power undersea battery; safe undersea battery; autonomous undersea power; small volume, high energy density undersea battery; power source for SWSS

TPOC-1: Mariam Valencia

Phone: 858-537-0175


TPOC-2: Marcus Speckhahn

Phone: 619-524-7244


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