18 Jan 17. Japan ponders long-range AUV. Japan is researching the creation of a future AUV for seafloor exploration, including under-the-ice operations in the Arctic, attendees at UDT Asia in Singapore learned on 17 January. Dr Hiroshi Yoshida, director of the marine technology department at the Japanese Agency for Marine-Earth Science & Technology (JAMSTEC), is leading the development effort even though it has stalled somewhat due to a shortage of funds. The ultimate aim is to produce a Long-Range Cruising Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (LCAUV) possessing a 3,000km range, diving depth of 6,000m and endurance of 600 hours. As well as exploration under Arctic ice, the fully autonomous LCAUV could be used for maritime security, seafloor exploration and gas/oil facility inspection. To achieve its design parameters, the LCAUV design would approach 20m in length, weigh 20t or more, carry a 1,000kg payload and be powered by a hybrid lithium ion/proton exchange fuel cell source. However, Yoshida admitted it could be about 2035 before his dream materialises due to funding constraints. He currently supervises a team of about 40 people.
Yoshida outlined the development progress of AUVs to date. JAMSTEC’s first 10m prototype AUV christened Urashima was developed from 1998-2005, and it featured a 300km range and diving depth of 3,500m. In 2005 this vessel journeyed 317km over 56 hours, and it also dived into the Southern Mariana trough.
Its fuel cells achieved an efficiency level of 53%, but the first prototype encountered many technical challenges.
A major difficulty in deep-sea AUVs is that the craft is surrounded by high pressures and low temperatures, where no gas can be directed in nor gases/liquids exhausted out. JAMSTEC research has therefore focused on suitable power systems for its future long-range AUV.
The second prototype appeared in 2010. Sea trials occurred in September 2013 where it reached a maximum depth of 180m. Its new-concept a high-efficienct fuel cell, with an output of 300W, achieved an efficiency rate of 60%. JAMSTEC worked on a third prototype fuel cell design from 2013-16, the goal being a 2,000W system using anode H2/cathode O2. However, this 400kg propulsion system has not yet been fitted into an AUV nor has it performed any sea trials, which is the next necessary step. There are several technologies that need to be progressively mastered to fulfil the LCAUV dream. Yoshida highlighted that by 2020 he wants energy storage within his power source, the ability to position the vessel under ice, and communication from land to the vessel under ice. By 2030, JAMSTEC is seeking higher reliability, the ability to operate without a mothership, autonomous sensing and recognition, and rescue techniques under ice. JAMSTEC has also been researching inertial navigation systems employing a ring gyro. Another area of study is using time reversal acoustics for long-range communication. It has been tested at 300km but Yoshida wants to extend this to 1,000km. Yoshida acknowledged that there has been very little study on long-range AUVs. Furthermore, the LCAUV goes against the trend of scientists showing more interest in smaller, more expendable craft. With rescues under the Arctic ice all but impossible, this makes sense. JAMSTEC has also developed what it calls a Hyper Remotely Operated Vehicle with an advanced buoyancy system, omnidirectional graphic imagery system, manipulator arm, optical communication system and a flipper-type crawler system. JAMSTEC operates the research manned submersible Shinkai 6500 that can descend to depths of 6,500m. (Source: Shephard)
17 Jan 17. DARPA Funds Cardboard UAV Project. A new research project funded by DARPA, the United States military’s experimental technology arm, has developed an autonomous drone made out of cardboard that can fly twice the distance of any fixed-range aircraft because it’s disposable. The drone only goes one way.
“When transporting vaccines or other medical suppl