Remote Autonomous Refueling Buoy

A refueling buoy for small marine vessels allows for longer missions

Patent drawing of refueling buoy with multiple USVs docked

Patent illustration

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.

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