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Remote Autonomous Refueling Buoy

The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, seeks to commercialize through patent licensing a refueling buoy for small marine vessels

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Refueling buoy with multiple fuel nozzle stations
Refueling buoy with multiple fuel nozzle stations
The Technology: 

Generally, Unmanned Surface Vessels (USVs) must be retrieved from the sea and brought on board a ship to be refueled. This reduces the percentage of time the USVs are conducting their missions, reducing their effectiveness and also causing the host vessel to remain relatively close to the mission area. If the host vessel can only launch/recover one USV at a time (as is typically the case), this creates a queuing problem for groups of USVs and subtracts from the total mission time available as all must wait while each unit is replenished and re-launched before returning to the mission area. A desirable option is an at-sea refueling station that overcomes the pitfalls of at-sea refueling and obviates the need for using a host vessel to provide this service. Such a station would allow the ship to conduct other missions simultaneously or keep a safe distance from a potentially hazardous area.
The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, has developed an air deployable automated buoyed fueling station that includes a central fuel tank and multiple fueling stations. Each of the plurality of fuel nozzles has an area for receiving a probe. The buoy uses a ballast tank and a water intake/outtake assembly for maintaining the fueling station at a safe docking level. The fueling station and water vessels communicate with each other to determine when and how much to refuel. 

Benefits: 
  • Easy Docking: Sensors maintain the fueling station at a predetermined freeboard or vertical height with respect to the surrounding water
  • Efficient Fleet Management: Manned or unmanned water vessels communicate with the fueling station on when to fuel 
  • Portable: Buoy can be deployed from a ship or dropped from a plane in any marine location
The Opportunity: 
  • US Patent 8,991,447 is available for license
  • Potential for collaboration with Navy engineers
  • Additional information available at techlinkcenter.org/refuelingbuoy
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