Navy adds Fuelcell Energy and Sierra Lobo to researchers investigating long-endurance UUV propulsion

August 7, 2012 - via Military and Aerospace Electronics

ARLINGTON, Va., 7 Aug. 2012. Unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) experts at the U.S. Office of Naval Research (ONR) in Arlington, Va., are moving forward with their effort to power a future generation of large, long-endurance UUVs for undersea persistent surveillance with two additional research contracts to investigate advanced UUV power and propulsion technologies.

ONR in July awarded two $20 million research contracts for UUV power and propulsion -- one each to Fuelcell Energy Inc. in Danbury, Conn., and to Sierra Lobo Inc. in Fremont, Ohio. The contracts are part of ONR's Large Displacement Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (LDUUV) program.

The LDUUV program seeks to develop an autonomous, long-endurance, land-launched UUV capable of operating near shore for long-term persistent sensing and surveillance. The program is developing air-independent energy systems to extend UUV endurance into months of operation. The program also is developing advanced autonomy and sensing technologies to operate in cluttered coastal waters and harbors.

The $20 million research contract to Sierra Lobo, awarded on 20 July, asks the company to develop a cryogenic fuel cell-powered undersea vehicle energy system. Sierra Lobo specializes in advanced cryogenic reactant storage system technology to power UUVs. The company's technology stores liquid hydrogen and liquid oxygen as the fuel cell reactant.

The $20 million contract to Fuelcell Energy, awarded on 24 July, asks the company to develop hybrid solid oxide fuel cell (SOFC) battery technology for the LDUUV program. SOFC technology produces electricity directly from oxidizing a fuel. Fuel cells produce DC electricity without a conventional combustion reaction.

Sierra Lobo and Fuelcell Energy join the Hamilton Sundstrand Corp. Sea Systems segment, in Windsor Locks, Conn.; General Atomics in San Diego; Lynntech Inc. in College Station, Texas; and NexTech Materials Ltd. in Lewis Center, Ohio, in this ONR project to develop advanced propulsion for future large UUVs.

The ONR contract to Hamilton Sundstrand, announced on 20 July, is for $18 million. The contract to General Atomics, also announced on 20 July, is for a minimum of $25,000 and a maximum of $20 million. The Lynntech contract, announced in May, and the contract to NexTech, announced in June, each are for $18 million.

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Author:John Keller