Navy moves large, long-endurance UUV project forward with machine autonomy contract to Hydroid

ARLINGTON, Va., 29 April 2012. The U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR) in Arlington, Va., plans to award a $5.9 million three-year sole-source contract to Hydroid Inc. in Pocasset, Mass., to develop an autonomy testing system for the future Large Displacement Unmanned Underwater Vehicle Innovative Naval Prototype Technology (LDUUV INP) program, which seeks to develop machine autonomy and long-endurance propulsion systems for large unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs).

Hydroid uses the uses the company's Remote Environmental Measuring Units (REMUS) unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) as autonomy testing system for LDUUV INP technology. The vehicle-control architecture is the same in the LDUUV and REMUS autonomous underwater vehicles, ONR officials point out. This makes it easy to move software from one vehicle to the other. Hydroid is a subsidiary of Kongsberg Maritime AS in Kongsberg, Norway.

ONR's LDUUV INP project seeks to develop a large unmanned submarine able to operate in the open ocean and in coastal waters and harbors on missions lasting more than 70 days to gather intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) information. The LDUUV INP program is in place to develop UUV autonomy and long-endurance propulsion systems for large UUVs.

The LDUUV is to be a pier-launched and recovered large unmanned submersible able to operate in the open ocean and conduct over-the-horizon sensor missions in coastal waters and harbors.

Autonomy involves autonomy software, computer hardware, and sensors. Endurance, meanwhile, pertains to UUV propulsion technology that can operate independently for tens of hours to months. Each effort to develop autonomy technologies and endurance technologies will have two phases.

The future LDUUV must be able to avoid all vessels in its area of operations, including fishing boats. Development challenges include detecting and avoiding undersea stationary and moving obstacles, as well as path planning algorithms to minimize energy consumption while avoiding obstacles; detecting, locating, and identifying surface vessels; determining the intent of detected surface vessels; and detecting and avoiding all kinds of fishing nets and fishing gear, including mono-filament and twine nets which are difficult to detect. Once outside the specified areas, human operators may intervene over satellite links if necessary.

Hydroid makes three different REMUS models. Among the most popular is the REMUS 6000, which is 12.6 feet long, 28 inches in diameter, and weighs 1,900 pounds. This UUV can dive to depths of nearly 20,000 feet. The REMUS 6000 has the same software and electronics systems in the REMUS 100 UUV.

Powering the REMUS 6000 is an 11-kilowatt-hour rechargeable lithium-ion battery pack in two pressure housings, with eight-hour charge time. The UUV can operate on missions lasting as long as 22 hours, and has a direct-drive DC brushless motor and two-blade propeller. It's typical speed is 5 knots.

The REMUS 6000 navigates with its long-baseline transducer, upward-looking-transducer, and acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP) inertial navigation unit. Standard sensors include side scan sonar, as well as conductivity and temperature sensors.

For more information on the upcoming Hydroid contract contact ONR's Vanessa Seymour by phone at 703-696-4591, or by e-mail at vanessa.seymour@navy.mil. More information is online at https://www.fbo.gov/spg/DON/ONR/ONR/12-SS-0014/listing.html.

For further information contact Hydroid Inc. online at www.km.kongsberg.com/hydroid, or the Office of Naval Research at www.onr.navy.mil.

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