A Lewis Center company that won a $3.5 million contract to develop an energy system for unmanned underwater vehicles has started the development phase of the project.
NexTech Materials Ltd. is developing a system that uses rocket missile fuel, oxygen and a fuel cell in a space the size of a torpedo tube to power the vehicles, which can be used for underwater mine sweeping and gathering intelligence, said Scott Swartz, the company’s chief technology officer. Such vessels today are powered by batteries with a life of just 10 hours, he said.
NexTech’s team is engineering a fuel cell that converts the oxidized rocket fuel into energy, Swartz said.
The vehicles are the underwater equivalent of unmanned air vehicles (UAV) or missile drones, he said.
The first phase of NexTech’s development project is slated for two years, and a second phase could take another 30 months.
The latest Office of Naval Research contract is the third for NexTech’s unmanned underwater vehicle project, Swartz said. The company designed the system on a $100,000 contract, and it completed more drafts and engineering on a $750,000 contract.
NexTech is working with Virginia-based Northrop Grumman Corp. and Alliant Techsystems Inc. It also has Connecticut-based Precision Combustion Inc. and Columbus-based pH Matter LLC on its team, according to a press release.