Unmanned vehicle launch and recovery system

Enables the launch and recovery of unmanned underwater vehicles from small boats

Military Technology Environmental

Navy personnel launch an autonomous underwater vehicle. (Blake Midnight/Navy)

Existing launch and recovery systems for mid- to large-sized unmanned underwater vehicles (UUV) use expansive hydraulic-powered cranes or stern gate ramps which require the platforms of larger vessels. Such restrictions on ship size create an unnecessary high cost for the launch and recovery of UUV. The system described below allows vessel size to be dramatically reduced for this process, thus lowering the cost of each deployment.

This system improves transport, launch, and recovery of UUV from a surface vessel. The system uses two tracks, one spanning the width of the vessel, and the other along the length, to enable UUV launch and recovery from a preferred location on the vessel. A winch mounted to an A-frame and trolley that moves along the track is used to raise and lower the UUV for both launch and recovery.

To ensure a safe process, pads at the top of the A-frame stabilize the load being elevated by the winch. These simple pieces create a sophisticated system that accomplishes an otherwise complex and costly function. Compatible unmanned vehicles can be surface and underwater traveling, and are not limited to a specific function, but only by the size and shape of the recovery basket. For torpedo shaped objects, a U-shaped basket is used for recovery. Multiple unmanned vehicles may go through the system, ensuring an efficient use of the vessel and system.

A fully-operational version of this system is optimized to handle torpedo-shaped UUV up to 1000 pounds, 15 inches in diameter, and 15 feet in length. It could be customized for virtually any size unmanned vehicle, mostly constrained by the size of the boat it is mounted on.

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