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Unmanned submarines: US Navy wants to wirelessly charge dive robots

Tuesday, August 29th, 2017 | Gadgets

Underwater loading without cables: The US Navy uses a series of Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (UUVs, or Autonomous Undersea Vehicles, AUVs) to operate independently of humans. At present the problem is the energy supply. This is to change.

The Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific (SSC Pacific), a US Navy technical research and procurement center, is currently testing systems for wireless underground charging. This means that the AUVs will charge their batteries during the operation.
AUVs must appear to load
The US Navy is already using AUVs today, says Alex Phipps of the SSC Pacific, for example, for the mapping of the seabed, to find submarines or to search for minerals. Today, however, these underwater vehicles have to interrupt their mission. For this purpose, they must return to shore or meet with a supply vessel at the water surface. Both expose the AUV and restrict the autonomous operations, says the US military.
The fact that wireless charging under water works, project manager Wayne Liu has demonstrated some time ago: He put his mobile phone in a waterproof pouch and sank it in a water tank, on a loading pad. There it was charged wirelessly. Since then, these systems have been significantly further developed, says the US military.

The Navy needs compatible charging systems
SSC Pacific researchers are committed to creating standards that apply to all systems. The US Navy uses various AUVs from various manufacturers, says Phipps. It is not however that each AUV only with a certain load system works and is not compatible with the other. They wanted to create a standard and make it available to manufacturers.
The wireless charging devices could then become part of the service stations that the US Navy is planning. At the end of last year, it announced that it intends to establish an undersea supply infrastructure. There, the AUVs are to be charged or refueled, depending on the drive. In addition, the data that AUVs have collected on their missions can be stored or transmitted there. This is to allow months and even years of AUV missions.


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