Components for a Deep Operating Unmanned Underwater Vehicle

Navy SBIR 21.2 - Topic N212-129
ONR - Office of Naval Research
Opens: May 19, 2021 - Closes: June 17, 2021 (12:00pm edt)

N212-129 TITLE: Components for a Deep Operating Unmanned Underwater Vehicle

RT&L FOCUS AREA(S): Microelectronics;Networked C3

TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Battlespace Environments;Electronics;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 and demonstrate pressure tolerant deep Unmanned Underwater Vehicle (UUV) components such as flooded motors, pressure tolerant electronics, and communication systems that work at ocean depth with the goal of improved performance, stealth, and reduced Size Weight and Power (SWaP).

DESCRIPTION: The U.S. Navy wishes to extend applications of UUVs to missions that require operation at greater depths, speeds, endurance, and stealth. Some future missions will be conducted using larger UUVs (Large Displacement Underwater Unmanned Vehicles [LDUUVs] aka Snakehead and Extra Large Unmanned Underwater Vehicles [XLUUVs]) than are currently common but must remain affordable. The motor drive the majority of the cost for these systems and currently cost $1M Future missions will require operation to the abysmal depths of 5 km. or more. Future missions will require average speeds of 6-7 knots (kts.) and endurance on the order of days to weeks. Some future missions will require stealth at speed. Means of communicating while remaining at depth will be required. Current missions often use smaller (Small Diameter UUV (SDUUVs) and Medium Diameter UUVs (MDUUVs)) relatively affordable UUVs operating at lower speeds (3-4 knots) for shorter duration (one a day) on the continental shelf. Stealth has been a requirement but it is easier to achieve low speed. Hence new propulsion systems and signature quieting systems are sought for deep operating UUVs. The plan is to feed successful SBIR efforts into a Tech Candidate executing over FY22 to FY23 leading to and Future Naval Capability (FNC) executing over FY24 to FY25.

Typical communication solutions for submerged, deep operating, UUVs are limited. The Navy is seeking novel solutions for both unidirectional and bidirectional communications for Command and Control of the deep diving UUVs.

Electronics in Deep Diving UUVs have the option to either be pressure tolerant or protected within a pressure vessel to protect against the immense forces of the deep ocean. Commercial Off-the-Shelf (COTS) electronics can be kept at atmospheric pressure with minimal modifications as long as a pressure vessel (PV) is utilized. However, the PV adds cost, size and weight to the electronic housing as well as requiring expensive, long-lead connectors to and from the PV. An alternative is to have pressure tolerant electronics (PTE) designed to operate in nonconductive-fluid-filled enclosures at the ambient ocean pressure. While there are several existing PTE solutions, these are often one-off designs. Deep UUV may have need for a variety of sensors such as side scan sonar, magnetic, LiDAR, and optical to perform their mission. Any deep operating UUV would greatly benefit from not requiring a PV around these sensors.

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 and Security Agency (DCSA) formerly Defense Security Service (DSS). The selected contractor must be able to acquire and maintain a secret level facility and Personnel Security Clearances. This will allow contractor personnel to perform on advanced phases of this project as set forth by DCSA and ONR 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 advanced phases of this contract.

PHASE I: Perform a feasibility study for novel deep UUV components for potential inclusion on next generation deep operating UUVs. These components can include conceptual design and CONOPS of new propulsion system, new communication system and links for deep UUVs, and/or modification of sensors to allow them to not require PVs by implementing PTEs for performance up to full ocean depth.

PHASE II: Develop and test a prototype for the proposed approach. This shall include hydrostatic testing of the components. Complete preliminary performance testing in a surrogate environment.

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: Extensively test the prototype fabricated in Phase II and examine mission performance under nominal operating conditions and well as performance in suboptimal environments and conditions.

Potential dual use applications include deep water resource mining and oil/gas extraction.



  1. Moreels, Daan and Leijnen, Peter. "Turning the electric motor inside out: A Belgian startup's axial-flux motor for EVs is small, light, and powerful. " IEE Spectrum, Oct 2019.
  2. Barnes, H. E. and Gennari, J. J. "A Review of Pressure Tolerant Electronics (PTE)." US Department of Commerce, NTIS, AD-AO27 907.
  3. Kampmann, P.; Lemburg, J.; Hanff, H. and Kirchner, F. "Hybrid pressure-tolerant electronics." Oceans 2012 MTS/IEEE Hampton Roads Conference & Exhibition, October 2012, pp. 1-5.

KEYWORDS: Axial Flux Motor; Pressure Tolerant Electronics; Underwater-to-Air bistatic/monostatic communication; UUV; LDUUV


The Navy Topic above is an "unofficial" copy from the overall DoD 21.2 SBIR BAA. Please see the official DoD Topic website at for any updates.

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