LAFAYETTE - A Lafayette-based engineering firm has won a research grant to continue work on developing fuel cells that can help power unmanned underwater vehicles.
API Engineering LLC received a $500,000 Small Business Innovative Research grant from the U.S. Office of Naval Research. The Phase II contract has an additional option for $250,000.
API Engineering will use the grant to continue research and development work on oxygen generation technology for fuels cells that can be used underwater.
The Navy is developing underwater vehicles that can be thought of as nautical counterparts to the Air Force's unmanned drones, API Engineering's president Ken Presley said.
While the Air Force drone program has become well known for its espionage and covert work, the Navy's unmanned underwater vehicle, or UUV, program is in its early stages.
"One of the primary issues with UUVs is getting the range and endurance they want out of them" Presley said.
The goal of the project is to make fuel cells more efficient and energy dense, Presley said.
API Engineering received a $70,000 Phase I grant in 2010, after being one of four proposals chosen from more than 10 that were submitted. Only two companies received Phase II grants for the program.
The $500,000 grant will run through the end of 2012, with the $250,000 option coming available in the middle of next year if the Navy chooses to continue, Presley said. If the technology works and is adopted, it could be deployed within three to five years, he said.
API Engineering is a two-person firm established in 2009.
External link: http://www.bcbr.com/article.asp?id=62175