Development of a Micro-glider for Oceanographic Air-Sea Interaction Sampling
Navy STTR FY2014A - Topic N14A-T020
ONR - Steve Sullivan -
Opens: March 5, 2014 - Closes: April 9, 2014 6:00am EST

N14A-T020 TITLE: Development of a Micro-glider for Oceanographic Air-Sea Interaction Sampling

TECHNOLOGY AREAS: Ground/Sea Vehicles, Sensors, Battlespace

ACQUISITION PROGRAM: PMW-120 (Battlespace Awareness and Information Operations Program); PMS 406

OBJECTIVE: To explore and develop a "micro glider" that addresses the rapid response needs for measuring in the boundary layers of the ocean and that dramatically reduces size and cost for production of fleets of small, disposable instruments. The design needs to incorporate scaling for fast turning radii and the instrumentation for fine-scale, fast response.

DESCRIPTION: The use of undersea gliders for battlespace characterization was accepted and formulated into a program of record in the Littoral Battlespace Sensing Fusing and Integration program of record. In this program, undersea gliders are used in key areas of interest to provide the ocean state assessment that is then telemetered via iridium satellite back to the Naval Oceanographic Office headquarters. Once there it is used to constrain ocean models and performance assessments for Anti-Submarine Warfare and Mine Warfare. These instruments cost over $150,000 per unit and while providing many years of service, they are expensive enough that ship time is devoted to their deployment and recovery. Because of the size of the instrument (roughly 6 feet, 120 lbs.) it has a long slow turning radius and although optimum for its present program of record purpose, it is not extensible to air-sea exchange measurements in the ocean atmosphere boundary layer.

The glider evolved from the ocean profiling float that populates the ARGO program and provides the world with ocean state estimations for climate assessment. The ARGO floats are a similar size, 4-6 feet and 120 lbs and profiles slowly, and only vertically. Recently, ocean technologists reduced the ARGO float size to 1.5 ft with an A size diameter and rate parachute for deployment from P3s or P8s. In reducing the size, complexity and cost was also reduced. The opportunity exists to harvest similar cost and size savings by creating the micro-glider. The research needs to address the first technical objective: (1) utilize scaling evaluations to determine the exact length, diameter, and center of gravity needed to achieve a rapid turning radius so that the very near surface of the ocean can be sampled. The present family of coupled models run by the navy requires detailed structure in this region to improve the representation of the fluxes of variable. The second technical objective is to find the low-cost rapid response sensor suite that can provide the appropriate turbulent flux data. Specialist now use additional velocimeters, accelerometers and fast response thermistors, strapped on awkwardly to generation 1 ocean gliders, in order to collect this data. The third technical objective is to reduce cost so that the new micro glider approaches the low cost of profiling floats the objective cost is $20k. Both the Navy and other DOD agencies have accepted that cost point for deploying instruments without the need to retrieve them.

This STTR differs from previous SBIRs that sought to reduce complexity and cost and achieve air-deployability because the micro-glider, by its size, and pay-load, serves a different technical sampling need: rapidly profiled turbulent fluxes in the mixed layer.

The Navy will only fund proposals that are innovative, address Research and Development (R&D) and involve technical risk.

PHASE I: Provide an initial development effort, based on the three technical objectives identified in the description, which demonstrates scientific merit and capabilities of the proposed micro-glider; perform and document the scaling and sensor analysis and investigate the tradeoff matrix to identify a candidate size and possible manufactured cost. Determine the challenges in achieving communications and lifetime in the smaller packaging. Provide detailed documentation and references showing the technical feasibility and approaches that could achieve the desired goals as well as meeting the price point. This document should outline the research approach for the Phase II effort.

PHASE II: Using results of Phase I effort, fabricate and characterize prototype micro-glider; demonstrate rapid profiling, sensor response and the quality of the flux data that are achievable. Evaluate life-time and sea-state response and fidelity of communications. Produce multiple micro-gliders to assess production potential and manufacturability; document the process and costs and materials.

PHASE III: It is expected that this prototype will be of interest to the Littoral Battlespace Sensing Fusion and Integration (LBSF&I) program of record (POR) as well as to various programs that provide expeditionary sensing systems for U.S. Marines and other naval applications. The LBSF&I POR utilizes the Naval Oceanographic TAG ships for deployment and recovery but they have begun to explore partnerships with NOAA and US Coast Guard for additional deployment opportunities. To certify this prototype for deployment and recovery, detailed engineering drawings of the electronics, engineered structures, and energy systems will be required. All materials should be documented including MSDS references. The power source, type of batteries, safety systems, chemistries, providers and tertiary and secondary quality control procedures should be documented and provided together with the electrical schematics to aid examination and approval by the appropriate certifying agent (NOSCA).

It is anticipated that these devices will be used not only by Navy, NOAA and Coast Guard but also by the ocean and ocean engineering communities. To aid in commercialization, software should be written as open source and clear indications of patents and intellectual property should be indicated.

Deliverables from this Phase will include no less than 5 micro-gliders for evaluation by entities indicated by ONR- such as but not limited to the LBSF&I POR, complete engineering and electrical diagrams, software with documentation, a battery safety documentation package, and a description and or gear for launch and recovery.

PRIVATE SECTOR COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL/DUAL-USE APPLICATIONS: There are presently three manufacturing companies for full-sized gliders that provide a growing military and commercial market (Konigsberg, BlueFin, Teledyne Brown) and multiple small businesses that have worked on specialized gliders and glider packages including: MRV, Exocedus, ANT, iRobot, VCT, Rockwell). The market has growth potential for both the military and by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), Department of Energy (DOE), Homeland Security, United States Coast Guard, and other agencies to have an appropriately sized sensor-equipped-glider that fits within their operational and affordability projections.

1. Rudnick, Daniel L., et al. "Underwater gliders for ocean research." Marine Technology Society Journal 38.2 (2004): 73-84.

2. Rudnick, Daniel L., et al. "A national glider network for sustained observation of the coastal ocean." Oceans, 2012. IEEE, 2012.

KEYWORDS: Oceanographic glider; Profiling floats; Buoyancy engines; Turbulent fluxes; Ocean/atmosphere boundary layer; Affordability; Sea state; Iridium communications

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