DIRECT TO PHASE II - Multiple UAV Launch, Recovery, and Storage Module for Deployment at Sea
Navy SBIR 2019.3 - DIRECT TO PHASE II Topic N193-D02
NAVAIR - Ms. Donna Attick - [email protected]
Opens: September 24, 2019 - Closes: October 23, 2019 (8:00 PM ET)


TITLE: DIRECT TO PHASE II - Multiple UAV Launch, Recovery, and Storage Module for Deployment at Sea

TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Air Platform, Ground/Sea Vehicles

ACQUISITION PROGRAM: NAE Chief Technology Office

OBJECTIVE: Develop technology for autonomously launching, recovering, storing, and recharging multiple small, unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) on a moving unmanned surface vehicle (USV) in rough water. Develop the technology for use in a variety of different missions on different types of surface vehicles.

DESCRIPTION: Currently, the Navy utilizes Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) in a number of situations where having a human pilot is dangerous, inefficient, or otherwise undesirable. As the technology to control multiple UAVs improves, groups of UAVs will be deployed into a wider range of potential missions. One potential application is for use in counter-small boat applications. In this scenario, once identification and initial classification of a potential threat is completed, the UAVs would be tasked to fly to the expected location of the potential threats. Once there, they would perform further identification and communication with the rest of the naval forces. At the end of operations, they would return to their home USV for stowage and recharging. Additionally, they may also be replaced and returned to base if their battery charge is low.

This topic focuses on the design of a modular system that stores the UAVs when not in use, and performs the necessary actions to prepare them for launch and recovery after mission completion. Currently, the Navy does not have a system in place to operate multiple UAVs from a USV or small manned vessel efficiently. While there are a variety of UAVs of different sizes, each comes with its own launch, recovery, and storage equipment taking up valuable deck space. Further, these systems require some level of human involvement. From manually setting up the launching system to actually steering the UAV into the air, none of the systems currently in use by the Navy is fully autonomous for launch and recovery operations. The new system should automate launch, recovery, storage, and recharging of multiple UAVs for use in a variety of missions, including the counter-small boat application described previously. This system should provide a convenient means of storing multiple UAVs, and must utilize one or several of the Joint Military Intermodal Containers (JMIC) for attachment to a USV or any other vessel for transporting the system, given the JMIC's open hardware interfaces.

There could potentially be several different types of UAVs stored in the system; however, it can be assumed that only one type at a time would be stored, but the type of UAV could change between missions. All possible types will be capable of performing vertical take-off and landings (VTOL) and be battery operated. An example of one possible set of characteristics for the possible UAVs is the ability to fly at 60 knots out a distance of 5 nautical miles, hover on station for 10 minutes, and then return home. However, the exact performance characteristics may change. Regardless of the UAV type, the system should store at least 3 UAVs.

The system should also use open, modular interfaces to connect to the mission computer. This connection is how the system receives information on when to launch UAVs and how many to launch. It receives this request and then autonomously performs the steps necessary to prepare the UAVs for launch. This could be one at a time or multiple at once. The system will then interface with the mission controller to acknowledge that the UAV(s) is ready for launch. Additionally, it must provide any relevant status to the mission controller, such as number of UAVs currently stored. The mission controller, mission execution, and UAV flight controls are not part of this solution and could be a counter-small boat mission or a variety of other options.

As the UAVs conclude their missions, due to low battery or mission completion, the mission controller will steer the UAVs back towards the system. The controller and the system again interact using open interfaces so the controller and system can successfully recover the UAVs. At this point, the UAVs are then stored and recharged for use in later missions.

All portions of the system, particularly launching and recovering, should be operable while the surface vessel or USV is underway and on rough seas. Because of the wide range of possible missions, it is important that the system is capable of launching and recovering different numbers of UAVs at different times. In other words, the launch and recovery solution should not be an all-or-nothing system where all the UAVs are in use or are all stored. Different UAVs may be coming and going at different times as the mission dictates. Additionally, this system must operate completely autonomously, as there are cases where it would be located on other unmanned vehicles. Finally, the system should be able to integrate with and operate from a USV or small manned vessel that is deployable from a parent ship.

A definitive requirements guide is in development. Use the following MIL-STDs for guidance purposes until specific requirements documentation is available; MIL-STD-810, particularly 505.6, 506.6, 507.6, 508.7, 509.6, 514.7, 516.7; MIL-STD-1568; MIL-STD-7179; MIL-STD-889 [Refs 3-7].

PHASE I: For a Direct to Phase II topic, the Government expects that the small business would have accomplished the following in a Phase I-type effort. It must have developed a concept for a workable prototype or design to address at a minimum the basic requirements of the stated objective above. The below actions would be required in order to successfully satisfy the requirements of Phase I:

- Designed and developed a system to perform end-to-end handling of multiple UAVs (recovery, storage, recharging, and launching again) in naval environments

- Determined and demonstrated the technical feasibility of a system capable of performing all aspects of end-to-end handling of multiple UAVs (recovery, storage, recharging, and launching again) in naval environments, including rough sea states and a moving host vessel.

FEASIBILITY DOCUMENTATION: Proposers interested in participating in Direct to Phase II must include in their responses to this topic Phase I feasibility documentation that substantiates the scientific and technical merit and Phase I feasibility described in Phase I above has been met (i.e., the small business must have performed Phase I-type research and development related to the topic, but feasibility documentation MUST NOT be solely based on work performed under prior or ongoing federally funded SBIR/STTR work ) and describe the potential commercialization applications. The documentation provided must validate that the proposer has completed development of technology as stated in Phase I above. Documentation should include all relevant information including, but not limited to: technical reports, test data, prototype designs/models, and performance goals/results. Work submitted within the feasibility documentation must have been substantially performed by the proposer and/or the principal investigator (PI). Read and follow all of the DON SBIR 19.3 Direct to Phase II BAA Instructions. Phase I Proposals will NOT be accepted for this BAA.

PHASE II: Based upon the work documented in the Phase I Proposal, build a system prototype and prove the end-to-end handling of multiple UAVs (launching, recovery, storage, recharging, and launching again) in realistic environments such as wave pools, motion simulators, or on water. The system prototype should also demonstrate its ability to integrate on to small vessels and/or USVs.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Perform final testing that involves integration into the rest of the Multi-Domain Autonomous Defense Against Surface Swarms (MADASS) effort and demonstration on an actual USV. Ensure that this testing demonstrates and verifies the full mission capability of the system. Transition the completed system for use on appropriate platforms.

This technology will provide a convenient way to store, launch, and recover groups of rotary wing UAVs; therefore, search and rescue, disaster response, entertainment, recording, sports, or other applications requiring a large number of UAVs would benefit from the development of this technology.


1. Joyce, J. "'Realm of the Possible' Revealed by Multi-Mission Unmanned Surface Vehicle." Navy News Service, 20 April 2018.

2. "JMIC: Joint Modular Intermodal Container.". Garrett Container Systems, Inc.





KEYWORDS: Unmanned Aerial Vehicles; UAV; Launch and Recovery; Autonomy; Modular Storage; Open Interface; Unmanned Surface Vehicle; USV



These Navy Topics are part of the overall DoD 2019.3 SBIR BAA. The DoD issued its 2019.3 BAA SBIR pre-release on August 23, 2019, which opens to receive proposals on September 24, 2019, and closes October 23, 2019 at 8:00 PM ET.

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