Sensing and Control Technology to Assist in Vehicle Launch and Recovery
Navy SBIR 2014.1 - Topic N141-061
ONR - Ms. Lore Anne Ponirakis - [email protected]
Opens: Dec 20, 2013 - Closes: Jan 22, 2014

N141-061 TITLE: Sensing and Control Technology to Assist in Vehicle Launch and Recovery

TECHNOLOGY AREAS: Ground/Sea Vehicles, Sensors

RESTRICTION ON PERFORMANCE BY FOREIGN CITIZENS (i.e., those holding non-U.S. Passports): This topic is "ITAR Restricted". The information and materials provided pursuant to or resulting from this topic are restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120 - 130, which control the export of defense-related material and services, including the export of sensitive technical data. Foreign Citizens may perform work under an award resulting from this topic only if they hold the "Permanent Resident Card", or are designated as "Protected Individuals" as defined by 8 U.S.C. 1324b(a)(3). If a proposal for this topic contains participation by a foreign citizen who is not in one of the above two categories, the proposal will be rejected.

OBJECTIVE: Develop motion sensing and control capabilities that can be implemented on a large surface vessel for the at-sea launch and recovery of mission systems that support Mine Warfare and Special Forces operations.

DESCRIPTION: The Military Sealift Command will operate the Afloat Forward Staging Base (AFSB), references [1,2], in support of mine warfare and special operations that require multiple manned and unmanned off-board systems requiring launch and recovery in a range of sea conditions. Unlike the interim platform, the USS PONCE (AFSB-I), reference [2], which is a refitted Austin-class amphibious transport dock (LPD-15), the AFSB is to be built upon the third Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) hull and will not have an internal well deck to provide a sheltered environment from which to launch, recover, and support mission essential offboard systems.

This effort will develop an automated launch and recovery system for AFSB-based vehicles; however, a manual or semi-automated system is acceptable. Most vehicles operated from the AFSB are presumed to be manned or unmanned surface vessels, but some such as the Remote Multi-Mission Vehicle described in reference [3] have most of their hull submerged during launch or recovery.

The AFSB configuration, based on the Mobile Landing Platform (MLP) hull shown in reference [1], was modified to function as a host platform for manned and unmanned vehicles performing mine warfare and Special Forces operations. The AFSB must have the capability of launching and recovering vehicles for these operations over a variety of environmental conditions. The MLP hull is 765 feet long and has a beam of 164 feet with a displacement of approximately 34,500 tons and should provide good sea-keeping performance with the exception of long period waves at specific relative wave headings. It is the smaller mission systems that will be particularly affected by wind and wave conditions and that will make launch and recovery operations outside the shelter of a well deck a challenge. As discussed in reference [5] the use of conventional cranes or davits without the assistance of sensing or control for motion compensation on a vessel in an open sea can result in uncontrolled pendulation with the potential for injury or damage to the host platform and mission payload. Also mentioned in reference [5], is the expectation that rescue boat operations can be executed through sea state 6 conditions.

The desired approach should focus on the launch and recovery system on the host platform providing the sensing and control required rather than making significant modifications to mission systems or vehicles. The mission systems were largely developed without the sensing and control technology that would enable automated launch and recovery of the vehicles. In order to maintain commonality of these systems when employed on other platforms such as the Littoral Combatant Ship (LCS) no modifications that significantly affect size, weight, power requirements or interfere with essential mission capabilities are acceptable. Therefore, all sensing or control for launch and recovery must reside solely on the host platform. Solutions could include active motion tracking by the recovery apparatus of the mission vehicle as well as mechanisms for motion mitigation. Other potential solutions could involve assisted control of manned and unmanned vehicles and thus must be compatible with vehicles that might be under manual control, either onboard or remotely, or operating autonomously. Particularly beneficial would be means to enhance the safety of launch and recovery of manned vessels, typically Rigid-Hulled Inflatable Boats (RHIBS).

The AFSB launch and recovery system must be versatile. It should be capable of launch and recovery of various mine warfare and special operations vehicles either without reconfiguration or with a quickly reconfigurable design.

PHASE I: Develop and assess feasibility of concepts for the launch and recovery of manned and unmanned systems that enhance the capability of the AFSB to perform its missions. Modeling and simulation should be performed to substantiate key performance attributes such as robust operation throughout a range of sea conditions. Identify sensor and control architectures and system performance parameters in conceptual design. Phase I Option efforts could include hardware-in-the-loop simulation.

PHASE II: Develop a preliminary design based on Phase I results. Demonstrate via physical modeling of a proof-of-concept launch and recovery system or significant unique technology components. Develop full-scale detailed designs that include documentation of the interface to the AFSB and estimated costs for fabrication and installation.

PHASE III: Fabrication of a full-scale prototype launch and recovery system, installation onboard the AFSB, and demonstration in a relevant operational environment. Develop and provide documentation to support operation and maintenance of the prototype.

PRIVATE SECTOR COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL/DUAL-USE APPLICATIONS: The offshore petroleum industry, the offshore wind energy industry, and the commercial maritime industry could benefit from a robust capability to launch and recover manned or unmanned systems from large vessels or floating platforms.

1. Afloat Forward Staging Bases

2. USS Ponce (AFSB(I)-15) - Afloat Forward Staging Base (Interim)

3. US Navy Fact File, Remote Multi-Mission Vehicle.

4. Paper, "Design of an Unconventional ASV for Underwater Vehicles Recovery: Simulation of the motions for operations in rough seas"

5. Paper, "Boat Launch and Recovery � A Key Enabling Technology for Flexible Warships"

KEYWORDS: AFSB; Launch and Recovery; Mine Warfare (MIW); Special Forces; Sensors; Controls

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