Unmanned Surface Vessels (USVs) generally must be brought on board a ship to be refueled. This reduces the vessel’s mission availability, effectiveness, and requires the refueling ship to remain close to the mission area. If the host vessel can only launch/recover one USV at a time (as is typical), refueling can create a queuing problem for USV fleets and compounds the decrease in system availability.
A desirable alternative is an at-sea refueling station that can simultaneously refuel multiple USVs. Such a station would free the refueling ship to conduct other missions and/or distance itself from hostilities.
The Naval Surface Warfare Center, Carderock Division, has developed an airdropped automated, floating fuel station that includes a central fuel tank and multiple fueling stations. The buoy uses a ballast tank and an intake/outtake pump for maintaining the fueling station at a safe docking level. The floating fuel station and autonomous vessels communicate with each other to determine when to refuel, extending the range of the vessels.
- 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 an aircraft in any marine location
- US Patent 8,991,447 is available for license and commercialization
- Potential for collaboration with Navy engineers