Ultra-High Reliable and Efficient Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV) Modular Generator System

Navy SBIR 24.1 - Topic N241-060
ONR - Office of Naval Research
Pre-release 11/29/23   Opens to accept proposals 1/03/24   Now Closes 2/21/24 12:00pm ET    [ View Q&A ]

N241-060 TITLE: Ultra-High Reliable and Efficient Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV) Modular Generator System

OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Renewable Energy Generation and Storage; Sustainment

OBJECTIVE: Develop and demonstrate a megawatt (MW) scale, ultra-high reliable and efficient Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV) modular generator concept configured with smaller KiloWatt (kW) scale building block power units in a high-density package to achieve a 4,000 hour no touch maintenance periodicity for continuous operation in a naval environment.

DESCRIPTION: Unmanned surface platforms are expected to become an indispensable part of Naval operations, yet current power system technology does not satisfy future long-duration USV mission needs. Current power generation system technology for USVs supports missions on the order of days to weeks, but many future missions will be measured in months.

One of the most critical enabling capabilities for USVs is reliability of the Hull, Mechanical, and Electrical (HM&E) systems. A significant part of HM&E systems is power generation, which is presently leveraged from manned platforms. These power generation systems, primarily diesels, are not specifically designed for high reliability and maintainability without human intervention.

Modular generators are functionally equivalent to single engine based shipboard diesel or gas turbine generators. The modular configuration enables a common flexible design approach to meet USV cross platform needs, both large and small, to be scalable to total power needs; enables graceful degradation of the system rather than a complete system shutdown in the event of a component failure; and can also be configured as needed to adapt to available platform space.

Innovation is sought to configure and optimize smaller kW scale power units to achieve the following:

Modular Generator Total Power Output: 1 MW or greater

Fuel: Navy Logistics Fuel including NATO F76

Building Block Power Unit Scale and Type: 10s-100s kW High Density Diesels, Stirling Generators, Fuel Cells, Gas Turbine Generators. Note that innovation will be sought on how to configure installation of multiple power units to allow for easy access for maintenance, quick removal and replacement as well as optimize operating life via controls.

Maintenance Interval: 2000 hrs

MTBF: 4000 hrs

Modular Generator Electrical Output: 800-1000VDC

Operate in a marine environment conditions such as salt air ingestion, ships motion in high sea states, shock, vibration, etc.

Modular generator volumetric and gravimetric density will be equal to or greater than equivalent power level marine diesel generator sets. Note that innovation will be sought on how to configure installation of multiple power units to maximize density as much as possible.

Modular single point connections for power, fuel, cooling, exhaust, and controls. Note that innovation will be sought on how to best optimize design to combine multiple power unit connections to a single ship interface.

PHASE I: Develop a Modular Generator conceptual design accounting for innovations and requirements stated in the Description with a defined building block power unit.

PHASE II: Develop a Modular Generator package. Demonstrate innovations identified in the Description. Further demonstrate high risk marine environment conditions as required.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Build a MW scale Navy modular generator incorporating innovations identified in the Description. Perform land based testing to prove operational capability with potential for subsequent at sea demonstration. Dual use application includes commercial marine and landbased generators.


  1. Congressional Research Service. "Navy Large Unmanned Surface and Undersea Vehicles: Background and Issues for Congress Updated August 25, 2023." https://fas.org/sgp/crs/weapons/R45757.pdf
  2. "Naval Research and Development Framework." https://media.defense.gov/2020/May/18/2002302044/-1/-1/1/NRE-ADDENDUM-TO-THE-R-AND-D-FRAMEWORK_070617.PDF

KEYWORDS: Modular Generator; High Density Diesel; Stirling; Fuel Cell; Gas Turbine Generator; USV


The Navy Topic above is an "unofficial" copy from the Navy Topics in the DoD 24.1 SBIR BAA. Please see the official DoD Topic website at www.defensesbirsttr.mil/SBIR-STTR/Opportunities/#announcements for any updates.

The DoD issued its Navy 24.1 SBIR Topics pre-release on November 28, 2023 which opens to receive proposals on January 3, 2024, and now closes February 21, (12:00pm ET).

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Topic Q & A

10/3/23  Q. Please clarify the following maintenance requirements:
1. In the objective, we find the statement, "...achieve a 4,000 hour no touch maintenance periodicity for continuous operation..." Is the purpose of this clause to highlight the "MTBF: 4000 hrs" requirement or does this maintenance clause detail a separate requirement?
2. Distinguish between the "4,000 hour no touch maintenance periodicity" and "Maintenance Interval: 2000 hrs" requirements. I read "maintenance interval" to include refueling, preventive maintenance, etc. Can you please explain the difference between these two maintenance requirements?
   A. The requirement is to achieve a 4000 MTBF reliability threshold goal. Maintenance periodicity requirement is to achieve a 2000 hour threshold goal. Reliability includes projected time between failure of components to cause the modular generator to be non operational. Maintenance includes those tasks performed to keep the modular generator in an operational state.

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