Micro-UUV with a 1,000nm range

Riptide’s low power-draw  micro-UUV has been paired with  an aluminium-seawater battery Riptide’s low power-draw micro-UUV has been paired with an aluminium-seawater battery

Riptide’s new micro-UUV will go far: in fact, paired up with L3 Open Water Power’s aluminium salt battery, it will travel for 1,000 nautical miles without a recharge.  

This US development promises to do away with the expense of support vessel and crew as the extra range means the UUV could, in many cases, be launched directly from shore.

To start with, the UUV’s neat 124mm diameter hull has three actuated control fins providing active roll stabilization, the vertical fin having an inbuilt recovery strobe (very useful for locating something this small). The fin’s integrated antenna for GPS and WiFi also helps retain hydrodynamic efficiency and as a result, the UUV can get up to 10 knots.

Sensors include an IMU / Compass or AHRS combination along with altimeter, depth and temperature plus an optional high-grade INS/DVL connection and it can be used with an Arc Scout Lite scanner. Not least, the soft and hard wired interfaces allow for further, easy customization.

This micro-UUV has been developed to keep going with only a low power draw: assuming a speed of 2kts, a 91cm length and no extra payload it can run from an alkaline battery for 40 hours, a lithium ion rechargeable battery for 48 hours and a primary li-ion battery for 144 hours.

However, when powered by an aluminium seawater battery it should keep going for as long as 400 hours.

Paco Santana of Riptide explained that the aluminium salt battery “sits like a wafer across the UUV’s diameter”, the circular cell only taking up a few centimetres of its internal space. The hydrogen byproduct also gives it neutral buoyancy with just a little plumbing.

The aluminium-water chemistry is inherently safer and more stable than many other battery and fuel cell technologies, it doesn’t actually become active until it meets seawater and so the cells can be transported without running afoul of regulations.

Recent testing by a US government agency showed the cells to be inert over a range of abusive conditions that would usually cause lithium-ion and even silver-zinc batteries to fail. More, these batteries are able to stand up to the pressure at the UUV’s maximum depth of 300m with no trouble.

According to Santana, this ‘little brother’ of Riptide’s family of portable UUVs looks like delivering a game-changing technology in the coming year.

By Stevie Knight

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