US Navy wants to recharge underwater drones wirelessly

Illustration. Photo: US Navy

The U.S. Navy is looking at ways to have its underwater unmanned vehicles charged wirelessly undersea.

It has recently awarded a $1.6 million contract to Aerojet Rocketdyne to develop a demonstration system that will allow the wireless charging of UUVs.

The company will also develop a software system which will enable the Navy to prioritize and schedule fielded UUVs that require remote recharging.

The concept is part of the Navy’s Forward-Deployed Energy and Communications Outpost (FDECO) program, which was born out of the Office of Naval Research (ONR).

The technology aims to equip UUVs with communications and energy refueling options for extended endurance, range and mission capabilities by deploying a subsurface docking station. In addition to greater independence, this system could allow for stealthier missions to be performed by the UUVs.

The navy uses UUVs for a number of purposes, including ocean-floor mapping, optimizing remote sensing platforms, as well as locating and identifying underwater threats such as mines. “With Aerojet Rocketdyne’s power and energy management system, the UUVs will be able to recharge wirelessly, upload data and download orders – without having to travel to a port or surface ships,” the company said.

Once Aerojet Rocketdyne matures the engineering hardware and software technologies, the company will exercise those capabilities in a series of U.S. Navy demonstrations. This contract extends through 2018.

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