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Asymmetric Propulsion Package

Inventors: Thomas Austin, Ben Allen, Michael Purcell, Jeffrey W. Kaeli, Frederic Jaffre, Robin Littlefield
Publication No. US20170015398A1

Overview: Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) are typically higher in cost than Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicles (ROVs) and come with operational limitations. There is an increased demand for AUVs due to increases in demand for oil and the heightened need for maritime security. Traditional marine thrusters include two or more symmetrically distributed blades and aquatic vehicles generally employ one or more thrusters for propulsion and one or more actuators for maneuverability and propulsion. A low-cost AUV system, one that simplifies propulsion, maneuverability, and manufacturing to a single device would decrease associated costs, maintenance, and potential failure modes.

Technology: The Low-Cost Asymmetric Propulsion Package is a simpler, cheaper, smaller footprint AUV system offering increased endurance. The Asymmetric Propulsion Package is capable of both axial thrust and lateral maneuverability from a single axis of rotation. It’s operated under the guidance of a control system capable of sensing the radial position of at least one of the blades, and capable of executing various radial blade speeds throughout the course of a single revolution as a means to maneuver the vehicle. These AUVs are hover enabled, require no mission planning or tracking, and enable low-cost survey. These vehicles have the potential to be game changers in many areas of undersea operations.  Defense applications include maritime security and mine countermeasures; offshore oil and gas industry applications include ocean site surveying and pipeline monitoring; and academic applications including ocean properties data gathering and analysis.  The market for “small” AUV’s is expected to grow from its present $101M to an estimated $625M by 2025. Technologies being developed at WHOI include an asymmetric propulsion concept that provides propulsion and maneuverability with a small vehicle footprint, a passive ballast concept that incorporates a simple and cheap footprint to enable vehicle hovering, and a spiral survey algorithm that would enable a low-cost survey without expensive sensors.



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