Low Cost Deepwater Delivery Systems

Navy SBIR 21.1 - Topic N211-064
NAVSEA - Naval Sea Systems Command - Mr. Dean Putnam - dean.r.putnam@navy.mil
Opens: January 14, 2021 - Closes: February 18, 2021 (12:00pm EDT)

N211-064 TITLE: Low Cost Deepwater Delivery Systems

RT&L FOCUS AREA(S): General Warfighting Requirements

TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Ground / Sea Vehicles

The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with section 3.5 of the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.

OBJECTIVE: Develop an innovative, low-cost method for delivering sensor payloads to specific locations or along specific trajectories for oceanographic, environmental, and biologic data collection in various depths of water.

DESCRIPTION: Oceanographic, biologic, and environmental data collection is needed to better understand the world’s oceans and to support naval operations. A large portion of ocean data is collected using underwater sensors. Networks of underwater sensors are enhancing data collection and enabling an Internet of Things (IoT) approach to marine monitoring. Although marine sensors vary widely in design and application, there is a need for low cost deployment approaches for marine sensors.

Numerous methods exist for the deployment of underwater sensors. Some sensors are placed using cranes and winches from surface ships. Precise placement of the sensors at deeper depths requires sophisticated station keeping and tracking capabilities, and typically results in moderate to high deployment costs. Surface ship deployment of deep sensors using cranes and winches have costs that scale with platform size and mission duration. Costs can range from $0.5M to $10M depending on the sensor payload size and mission details. Remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) or deep submergence vehicles (DSVs) are also used to assist in sensor placement. These approaches typically require support from specialized surface ships and thus result in moderate to high deployment costs. Costs for ROV- and DSV-supported placement of deep water sensors typically range from $2-3M to $10-20M. Some sensors are deployed as a payload on an underwater vehicle. Example of vehicles used include underwater gliders, buoys, and unmanned underwater vehicles (UUVs). Underwater gliders are typically a low-cost combined sensor-vehicle approach using relatively simple vehicles and components and one- to two-person deployment operations that can be carried out from most any surface vessel. Sensor deployment as part of an underwater glider can result in costs as low as $100K. However, most underwater gliders have limited payload capacity. UUVs vary greatly in size and also in payload capacity. UUVs have excellent payload delivery potential. However, most UUVs, especially those that can operate at deeper depths, have moderate to high purchase and operation costs. Deep-water sensor deployment via UUV typically incurs costs of $500K to $3M, depending on mission details. Floats offer a balance of low cost and moderate payload capacity, with costs ranging from $100K to $300K for some common systems. However, most float systems lack sufficient maneuverability to act as deeper depth sensor deployment systems.

At present, most existing methods for deployment of underwater sensors suffer from either high costs, low payload capacity, minimal maneuverability, or restrictions to shallow depths. Low-cost deep capable alternatives are needed.

The intent of this SBIR topic is to solicit novel ideas for low cost payload deployment in various depths of water. A system cost less than $200K and deployment costs less than $300K per deep water mission would greatly enable and extend deep water sensor-based activities in oceanographic, biologic, and environmental data collection. All concepts that can provide a low-cost means of deploying common sensor packages are of value and shall be considered. The following metrics are provided as general guidance, but solution concepts can deviate from these metrics as long as the solution provides an advancement in deployment operations or reduction in cost of established or future underwater sensors systems.

Potential payloads vary greatly in size, shape and weight. A target payload size is provided for purposes of design studies. Concepts that meet or exceed the target payload size will have strong potential for selection and transition. The target payload size is a dry weight of up to 100 lbs (45 kg), a net buoyancy ranging from 0 to 50 lbs (23 kg) negatively buoyant, and a total volume of up to 1000 cubic inches (16400 cubic cm). Although many sensor payloads are currently of cylindrical form factors, solution concepts should have moderate flexibility to accommodate both variations in payload shape and net buoyancy over the ranges provided.

The delivery solution shall be easily transported and stowed, ideally with minimal storage footprint and special equipment required. An on-deck footprint of roughly 3ft (1m) by 6ft (2m) would greatly expand surface ship deployment options and thus provide deployment cost reduction potential. Deployment of the delivery solution and payload will ideally require minimal support equipment. It is anticipated that two-person portable and deployable solutions will likely provide the greatest cost savings and have the greatest potential for transition to military and commercial use. Recovery of the delivery solution shall also be considered in comparing solution concepts. The recovery approach should minimize personnel and resources required. It is conceivable that some delivery solutions may be of sufficiently low cost and have a negligible environmental impact such that recovery of the delivery system is not required. Such solutions will have a favorable impact on logistics and will be rated accordingly.

The required placement performance of the delivery solution varies with different sensor payloads, but a placement uncertainty of 33ft (10m) is considered to have good transition potential. Placement at a fixed bottom location is considered a primary evaluation criterion. However, the ability to traverse a specified trajectory is also considered a valuable capability and will be considered when evaluating solution concepts.

It is desirable for the delivery solution to be able to operate in various depths of water. Depth capability will be a key factor for transition. Concepts should maximize depth capability. Concepts that can operate to full ocean depth will be applicable to the largest range of sensor deployment operations and will thus maximize transition potential.

Under many conditions, it can be advantageous to deliver a sensor payload to locations away from the deploying vessel in order to maximize sensor coverage while minimizing distance traveled by the deploying vessel. A delivery approach that can achieve accurate placement of a sensor over an operationally relevant horizontal distance from the deploying vessel has greater transition potential than a solution that can only deliver a payload to a location directly below the deploying vessel. Simple delivery concepts can be conceived which could provide horizontal standoff (range) from the deploying vessel. Concepts that can provide operationally relevant range (1km or greater) will have strong transition potential.

Cost is expected to be the most critical factor affecting transition. As discussed above, significantly reducing the operational costs of current delivery approaches will result in meaningful reductions in the cost of underwater sensor delivery, and therefore any innovation with cost reduction potential is valuable. Solutions that can achieve low system costs, while providing the performance attributes above, will have significant transition potential. Cost savings potential are on the order of $0.5 to $3M+ per payload deployment and placement.

Phase II will feature prototype development and testing. The Navy will assist in developing a test plan that demonstrates and establishes the full range of performance characteristics of the solution. Potential test sites include the Atlantic Undersea Test and Evaluation Center (AUTEC), Pacific Missile Range Facility (PMRF), or an open ocean test site. Testing depths, environmental conditions, and test payloads shall be selected to fully exercise solutions in order to maximize demonstration value and enhance transition potential.

Work produced in Phase II may become classified. Note: The prospective contractor(s) must be U.S. Owned and Operated with no Foreign Influence as defined by DOD 5220.22-M, National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual, unless acceptable mitigating procedures can and have been implemented and approved by the Defense Counterintelligence Security Agency (DCSA). The selected contractor and/or subcontractor must be able to acquire and maintain a secret level facility and Personnel Security Clearances, in order to perform on advanced phases of this contract as set forth by DCSA and NAVSEA in order to gain access to classified information pertaining to the national defense of the United States and its allies; this will be an inherent requirement. The selected company will be required to safeguard classified material IAW DoD 5220.22-M during the advance phases of this contract.

PHASE I: Develop a conceptual design for a low cost deep-water delivery system that consists of the design, identified critical components, estimates of solution materials and manufacturing costs, and Rough Order of Magnitude (ROM) costs for transport, stowage, and deployment. Combinations of analysis, modeling and simulation may be required to establish solution feasibility. The Phase I Option, if exercised, will include the initial design specifications and capabilities description to build a full-scale prototype system in Phase II.

PHASE II: Develop and deliver a prototype system and validate it with respect to the topic’s objective. The prototype system shall consist of a vehicle functional and system diagram, a complete technical design package, vehicle integration plan, vehicle assembly plan, and vehicle test and evaluation plan that shows how to validate the prototype system performance. Evaluate the prototype based on payload capacity, delivery accuracy to a fixed bottom location for select depths and ranges, delivery accuracy along a desired trajectory for select depths, total system cost, and overall projected costs of transport, launch, and recovery. Aspects of Phase II testing will be dependent on the scope of solutions provided in Phase I.

It is probable that the work under this effort will be classified under Phase II (see Description section for details).

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Support the Navy in transitioning the technology to Navy use in the form of follow-on prototypes, using any lessons learned from the Phase II to improve the solution. Tailor the solution for deployment from specific vessels as required. Additionally, there is extensive commercialization potential for low cost deep-water delivery systems to support deep sea oil and mineral extraction as well as enable the sensors needed to regulate such industries. As such, Phase III will enhance the technologies to maximize alignment for delivery of sensors to support oceanographic, environmental, and biologic data collection, as well as resource management.


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  2. Verfuss, Ursula K.; Aniceto, Ana Sofia; Harris, Danielle V.; Gillespie, Douglas; Fielding, Sofia;. Jimenez, Guillermo; Johnston, Phil; Sinclair, Rachel R.; Sivertsen, Agnar; Solbo, Stian A.; Storvold, Rune; Biuw, Martin and Wyatt, Roy. "A review of unmanned vehicles for the detection and monitoring of marine fauna." Marine Pollution Bulletin, Volume 140, March 2019, pp. 17-29. https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0025326X19300098
  3. Awan, K. M., P. A. Shah, K. Iqbal, S. Gillani, W. Ahmad and Y. Nam. "Underwater wireless sensor networks: a review of recent issues and challenges." Wireless Communications and Mobile Computing, Volume 2019, Article ID 6470359. https://www.hindawi.com/journals/wcmc/2019/6470359/
  4. Xu, Guobao; Shi, Yanjun; Sun, Xueyan and Shen, Weiming. "Internet of Things in Marine Environment Monitoring: A Review." Sensors, Volume 19, Issue 7, April 2019. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6479338

KEYWORDS: Sensor payload delivery; Underwater Vehicle; Deep Ocean Delivery; Low Cost Navigation, Low Cost Underwater Systems; Low Cost Autonomy; Low Cost Deployment


The Navy Topic above is an "unofficial" copy from the overall DoD 21.1 SBIR BAA. Please see the official DoD Topic website at rt.cto.mil/rtl-small-business-resources/sbir-sttr/ for any updates.

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