Quincy, MA, USA—21 Feb 2012—Bluefin Robotics, a subsidiary of Battelle, is joining with The Columbia Group to invest in the next generation large submersible vehicle.
Bluefin is a leader in design and manufacture of Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) and related technology. Battelle has a long history of meeting the technology needs of the U.S. Navy including work on the Advanced SEAL Delivery System. The Columbia Group has provided the U.S. and foreign navies with Swimmer Delivery Vehicles for more than 20 years.
The Columbia Group currently is developing the hull mechanical and electrical systems for the large Dual Mode Undersea Vehicle, capable of operation in either manned or autonomous modes. Called Proteus, it will be advanced by incorporating Bluefin’s autonomy technology for use in unmanned missions. Bluefin is also supplying mission planning capabilities and the power solution. Battelle is providing battery charging and systems integration support. Developers plan to hold an at-sea demonstration in the spring.
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With the U.S. Navy rapidly pursuing deployment of unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV) for its fleet, The Columbia Group is hoping their new beefy underwater sub, the Proteus, a 25 foot 6,220lb beast, will turn some heads. The unmanned Proteus is capable of carrying 3,200 pounds of mines and ordnance. The Proteus can carry other vehicles, including the Sea Fox, a One-Shot Mine Identification and Disposal (UUV), which can also be sent on suicide missions. The Proteus is designed to carry an internal load of 400 lbs, which means a lot of sensors and cameras can be installed to find out what’s lurking in the deep. The Proteus (UUV), although it’s a tight fit, if necessary could carry a crew of up to 7 Navy SEALs to a highly fortified target.
The U.S. Navy’s Admiral Gary Rougehead, the ongoing chief of Naval Operations, has challenged engineers to build an unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) capable of traveling thousands of nautical miles before refueling. The Columbia Group anticipates the Proteus will have a top speed in the range of 3 to 5 knots and would have a range of approximately 324 nautical miles or 92 hours before it would need refueling. Although the Proteus doesn’t meet the benchmarks set by Adm. Rougehead, it’s a step in the right direction. Admiral Roughead hopes to take the UUVs from experimental to routine deployments within the next decade.
“I think that unmanned underwater vehicles have potentially greater value than maybe even … the aerial vehicles; I submit that the underwater is more stressing, it’s harder,” Roughead said in an interview. “And therefore I think the ability to use underwater vehicles can give you, I think, more of a payback than an aerial vehicle can.”
The challenge facing engineers is powering these underwater vehicles, which would be deployed at sea for months. The U.S. Navy is currently exploring new technologies to power UUVs, some of which include various types of advanced fuel cell technology. The fuel cell types being looked at include solid oxide, direct borohydride, and hydrogen systems, which are all being tested as ways to power the UUV’s electric propulsion systems without access to oxygen.
The Proteus is scheduled to hit the waters sometime this summer for testing near The Columbia Group’s home in Panama City, Florida. The Proteus is a non-funded military program. It’s safe to assume that The Columbia Group hopes that will change after successful testing.
Recent News: Bluefin, Battelle, and The Columbia Group Investing to Propel Proteus Vehicle into the Seas – February 21, 2012