Energy Department wants unmanned boat to operate in the ocean autonomously for six months

RICHLAND, Wash., 18 Nov. 2009. If your company can build an oceangoing unmanned boat able to operate autonomously in the open ocean, coastal areas, and harbors for as long as six months, then the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) wants to hear from you -- but you have to act quickly.

Posted by John Keller

RICHLAND, Wash., 18 Nov. 2009. If your company can build an oceangoing unmanned boat able to operate autonomously in the open ocean, coastal areas, and harbors for as long as six months, then the U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) wants to hear from you -- but you have to act quickly.

Interested companies have only five days from today to respond to the Energy Department's solicitation for an unmanned surface vehicle (USV) for water-based monitoring of various targets involving security for nuclear energy and nuclear weapons.

DOE needs the unmanned boat to have silent propulsion, as well as low visual, radar, and acoustic signatures, to take measurements with onboard sensors able to operate and survive in the salt-spray environment of the open ocean.

The Energy Department solicitation (RFP No. 117376) will be administered by DOE contractor Battelle, calls for an unmanned surface vehicle able to operate in waters as shallow as 22 to 40 feet; operate autonomously for as long as six months in conditions involving continuous salt wash and salt spray; and handle sensor payloads as heavy as 40 pounds, with modular mechanical, electrical, and software interfaces to general-purpose payload housing, with access ports for water sampling and conditioned power outputs and data connections.

The Energy Department's USV also must be able to communicate frequently with the shore via Iridium satellite modem and via RF modem for local communications, and be equipped with an integrated automatic identification system via VHF antenna for data transmissions.

The unmanned boat's navigation should be by compass with better than 1 degree of accuracy, as well as a 16-channel GPS receiver with Wide Area Augmentation System (WAAS) capability, giving the autonomous boat better than 3 meters accuracy.

Operator control of the USV should be via a chart-based graphic user interface accessible via the World wide Web, including text-based waypoint generation with chart annotations, while autonomous control will be by waypoint, trackline, and station keeping.

The USV's propulsion power will be by wave energy and solar energy, with 500 Watt hours of electricity storage. Solar power should be more than 75 Watts peak, its command and control power must be more than 1 Watt continuous, and its payload power must be three to five Watts continuous.

The unmanned boat also must have shore-activated marker light, as well as RF and acoustic beacon for emergency location, leak and ground fault detectors, and battery packs isolated from each other that charge separately for safety.

Interested companies must turn in their proposals no later than 2 p.m. eastern time 23 Nov. -- which is next Monday.

Send proposals to Mr. Jan Slater at the Battelle Marine Sciences Laboratory in Richland, Wash., by e-mail at jan.slater@pnl.gov, with "Proposal to RFP No. 117376" in the subject line.

Interested companies also may fax proposals to Slater at 360-681-3600, or send them by post to Battelle Marine Sciences Laboratory, ATTN: Mr. Jan H. Slater, Division Contracts Manager, 1529 West Sequim Bay Road, Richland, WA 99354.

More information in online at https://www.fbo.gov/index?tab=documents&tabmode=form&subtab=core&tabid=76f1ca4892846488f7bb900ead29c9e7.

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