Thursday, September 27, 2012

Future Naval Drone Power - Part II

Unmanned naval systems are rapidly reaching the limitations of physics with regard to their endurance.  Current internal combustion and electrically powered systems have several drawbacks.  In addition to range/weight issues, liquid fuel engines make for noisy UAVs which can compromise missions in some circumstances, such as intelligence, surveillance, and reconaissance.  Electrically-powered UAVs are quiet, but batteries do not approach the energy contained within a similar weight of fossil fuel.  This article clearly explains the physical limitations of current battery technologies.  Modern lithium-ion batteries are problematic due to their propensity to catch fire and explode.  SOCOM's billion dollar Advanced SEAL Delivery System (ASDS) fire illustrated  why navies are not keen on carrying lithium-ion batteries at sea, especially undersea.  Clearly, alternative power technologies are in high demand.

Previously, we highlighted the use of ship-based lasers to power future UAS.  The video below discusses these tests, along with a propane-powered variant.  Planned upcoming flight tests will demonstrate the ability to keep a Stalker Small Tactical UAS aloft using a laser for two to three days.

Lockheed Martin video on Stalker UAS


For long-endurance surface and underwater vehicles where speed is not a mission requirement, wave power and buoyancy-driven gliders are viable alternatives.  Another possibility for powering future autonomous sea-floor crawlers or UUVs is the benthic microbial fuel cell.  Naval drones will require continued innovations in power to allow performance necessary to meet future operational requirements.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Still More IMCMEX 12 Unmanned Systems...

As FIFTH Fleet's major mine countermeasures exercise continues, we learn "Task Group North" flagship USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15) operating in the Persian Gulf isn't the only MCM mother ship. More than 1,000 miles to the South, USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44) is hosting Royal Navy MCM ops in the Gulf of Aden.  Another interesting observation is that the Amercians, British, Dutch, and Kiwis are all deploying variants of the Hydroid REMUS UUV. Whether intentional or not, this systems compatiblity will ensure coalition operations and logistics support during any future mine warfare contingency occur more smoothly.
GULF OF ADEN (September 19, 2012) -- British Royal Navy Diver Petty Officer Grahame Sheppard, left, and British Royal Navy Diver Chief Petty Officer Alan Knowles tests GPS for a REMUS 100 Sidescan SONAR, an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), on the boat deck aboard amphibious dock-landing ship USS Gunston Hall (LSD 44). Gunston Hall is participating in the International Mine Countermeasures Exercise 2012(IMCMEX 12). IMCMEX 12 includes navies from more than 30 countries focusing to promote regional security through mine countermeasures operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Sunderman/ RELEASED)
Navy, IMCMEX 12, International Mine Counter Measures Exercise, Royal New Zealand Navy Operational Dive Team in the Gulf, The Mine Countermeasures Team deploy AUV (REMUS).
GULF OF ADEN (September 20, 2012) -- British Royal Navy Marine Engineering Officer Grahame Sheppard, right, and British Royal Navy Diver Able Bodied J.J. Brown prepare to deploy a REMUS 100 Sidescan SONAR, an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV), into the Gulf of Aden during the International Mine Countermeasure Exercise 2012 (IMCMEX 12). IMCMEX 12 includes navies from more than 30 countries focusing to promote regional security through mine countermeasures operations in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Jonathan Sunderman/ RELEASED)
ARABIAN GULF (September 22, 2012) -- Contractor carries ScanEagle UAV after recovery aboard USS Ponce (US Navy Photo)