TITLE: Common Unmanned
Underwater Vehicle (UUV) Stern Launch and Recovery System
ACQUISITION PROGRAM: PMS 420,
LCS Mission Package Program Office
OBJECTIVE: Develop a launch
and recovery system that can accommodate a variety of sizes of Unmanned
Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) when installed aboard LCS ships.
DESCRIPTION: The Navy is
looking for a common solution to launch and recover a variety of UUVs from
large to small, and that can operate from near the waterline (Freedom variant
Littoral Combat Ship (LCS)) to high above the waterline (Independence variant
LCS). The Navy needs a system for launching and recovering UUVs that are of a
variety of sizes, weights, and shapes from a variety of ship platforms and
UUVs are off-board vehicles that are typically cylindrical or semi-cylindrical
in cross section and can range in size from a small, hand-launched system such
as the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute (WHOI) REMUS 100 to large systems
such as the HUGIN 3000 and REMUS 6000. UUVs can be designed to be
free-flooding or hermetically sealed, but often their shells are not adequate
for lifting or grappling purposes. They often have easily damaged external
features such as fins, propulsors, propellers, and antennas. Different
manufacturers design different features for lifting including nose lift, tail
lift, single-point body lift, and two-point body lift. Many UUVs are not
designed to be driven or piloted through the water; they operate on a
point-to-point system, diving underwater to transit via Inertial Navigation
System (INS)/Inertial Measuring Unit (IMU) to a location where they surface to
acquire the Global Positioning System (GPS) for a location fix. Many UUVs are
equipped with forward looking or bottom mapping sonars that make interfacing
with these areas difficult.
Current commercial launch and
recovery systems are often ship specific and UUV/AUV specific. Institutions
such as WHOI and private industries supporting the petroleum industry all use
UUVs/Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) and conduct numerous launch and
recovery operations every year.
Pier-side launch and recovery of UUVs is relatively simple as large cranes or
davits can be used to lower or recover UUVs in sheltered bays, inlets,
waterways. There is often unlimited overhead and the launch/recovery system is
not in motion. With underway launch and recovery aboard a ship, the ship may
be transiting to maintain heading and minimize ship motions. The ship may be
hovering to allow the UUV to be lowered or lifted from a fixed location. The
ship may be stationary but not hovering, in which case the ship will be driven
by wind and waves, often causing the ship to heave, roll, sway, and yaw. The
launch and recovery system will likewise be in motion at the same time the UUV
will be in motion, often with a different frequency, phase, and magnitude. The
UUV will not necessarily be aligned to the same heading as the ship, or be able
to be commanded to do so. Many UUVs do not have tow points allowing them to be
put undertow by the ship for launch or recovery. The goal of this design is to
provide flexibility of capability and interfaces that will support a variety of
UUVs (in various sea states). This should take into consideration the design
constraints associated with UUVs such as easily damaged components (e.g., fins,
propellers/propulsors, external antennas), hull/shell strength, hard
points/lift points, and UUVs that cannot be driven/piloted like a boat (i.e.,
they only operate by underwater movement from GPS coordinate to GPS
The Navy has an objective to launch and recover UUVs in sea states through sea
state 3 in accordance with STANAG 4194:1983. Supported platforms potentially
could have a freeboard anywhere from near the waterline to as high as 15’ above
Both variants of the LCS as well as the Expeditionary Fast Transport (EPF) ship
utilize stern launch and recovery of watercraft, versus using a moon pool or
side mounted launch and recovery system. A common approach to stern launch a
UUV from a ship is to bring the ship to a standstill, deploy the handling
system and lower the UUV to the water’s edge before releasing it. Depending
upon whether the UUV is suspended or captive, a towline can be rigged to ensure
the UUV maintains a suitable orientation relative to the ship and to the
horizon. Once the UUV is clear of the ship, it can begin its functional
mission. Other methods include slowing the ship to a minimal speed at which
steerage can be maintained, and towing the UUV as it enters the water.
The current process to recover a UUV depends upon the approach. Web page
searches will show multiple approaches from underbelly lift for small UUVs
(REMUS 100), nose tow up a ramp (HUGIN 3000), and vertical recovery (REMUS
6000) using an A-frame stern launch and recovery system.
WHOI developed a Launch and
Recovery System (LARS) specific to the REMUS 6000. From information available
on the WHOI website:
“The REMUS Launch and Recovery System has made over 1,000 successful launch and
recoveries to date. Due to the vehicle's larger size, this self-contained
system has been engineered here at WHOI in the OSL. It enables the L & R
of the vehicle in sea states up to those created by the Beaufort Scale 5 winds.
It requires only one operator and, therefore, does away with the need to use
tag lines eliminating extra people on deck and creating a safer working
LARS is installed on the stern of a ship. For launch, the LARS has a built-in
A-frame, which tilts the cradle up and over, while leaving the vehicle hanging
by its nose well clear of the fantail. The cradle supports the vehicle during
A-frame rotation, stabilizing the vehicle until it is a safe distance from the
stern. The docking head provides damping to reduce swing in heavy seas. The
vehicle is then lowered into the water, tail first, while the ship is making
approximately 1-2 knots forward way (this allows the vehicle to stay well clear
of the ships screws). All systems are given one final checkout before release.
When ready, the vehicle is commanded to release its tow-line and begin its
Likewise, from the same website, the LARS for the REMUS 3000 is described as
“The REMUS 3000 Launch and Recovery system, similar to the proven system of our
REMUS-6000 which has completed over 1,000 successful launch and recoveries to
date, has a footprint of 5.5' x 10'. The control consists of a tilt A-frame,
tilt docking head, pay in/out winch and rotate vehicle. This system enables
the launch and recovery system of the AUV to be simple, reliable, easy to
operate and time-saving with the hydraulics operating at 10-15 HP with a
built-in joystick controls in a waterproof operator console.
The system is vessel dependent and is mounted on the stern of a ship. It
allows the vehicle to be operated from a vessel in sea states up to those
generated by the Beaufort Scale 5 winds.”
The HUGIN 1000 can be installed in a 20-foot ISO container, which is used for
storage, maintenance, launch, and recovery. According to the Kongsberg
website, the HUGIN 1000 and launch device (stern ramp) can be deployed from the
20-foot ISO container from the stern of a ship.
Typically, the largest challenge is to align the ship to a stationary UUV,
secure a suitable lifting or towing apparatus to the UUV, and then lifting or
towing the UUV from the water. Since UUVs can roll, approaches such as a
v-shaped ramp or underbelly netting are generally not going to be acceptable
approaches to lifting a wide range of UUVs because so many cannot afford to
roll over or have fins/propellers take strain from lifting systems.
Lifecycle costs will be reduced by having a single ship that can perform
multiple functions/missions with UUVs, all while using a single LARS.
Likewise, savings can be realized in the use of a common LARS across various
ship and shore platforms. Cost savings can be realized through reduced need
for spares/use of common spares; standardized technical support services and
manuals; savings through larger purchase quantities; commonality of materials
and fluids. Additionally, a common handling system can be used as design
criteria for future UUVs allowing them to integrate to a single system, versus
developing a unique approach for every new UUV before the Navy or other users
have an opportunity to influence interfaces and design. Proposers need to
mindful that, if applicable, the development of supporting software must be
done in an open architecture environment to facilitate maximum compatibility
with future system iterations.
PHASE I: Define and develop a
concept for both launch and recovery of UUVs of various sizes as defined in the
description. Investigate innovative solutions to meet shipboard operational
environments, interface with a variety of UUVs, and establish that the
solutions can be feasibly developed into useful products for the Navy.
Establish feasibility by analytical modeling and simulation to provide an
initial assessment of their concept performance. Provide a final report as a
deliverable documenting their design and design constraints and describing both
the envisioned approach for installing the proposed system on both a ship with
low deck (near the waterline) and one with a high deck (at least 15 feet above
the waterline) and the essential characteristics of the system supported by
feasibility simulations of launch and recovery. The Phase I Option would
include the initial layout and capabilities description to build the unit in
Phase II. Provide a Phase II Initial Proposal as a deliverable.
PHASE II: Based on the
results of Phase I and the Phase II Statement of Work (SOW), develop a
prototype for evaluation and delivery. Test the key software and hardware
components of the prototype initially in a lab and then pier-side. After the
integration of any refinements required, the Navy will evaluate the prototype
to determine its capability to meet the performance goals defined in the Phase
II SOW and the Navy requirements for the launch and recovery of UUVs in various
sea states. Support Navy demonstration and evaluation of the system performance
through prototype testing and evaluation on a representative ship or ships (to
meet both waterline requirements) with UUVs or UUV simulators (i.e., floating
shapes intended to represent actual UUVs) over the required range of
parameters. Testing will include numerous deployment cycles to demonstrate
repeatability. Use the evaluation results to refine the prototype into a design
for a first-order production unit that will meet Navy requirements. Prepare a
Phase III development plan to transition the technology to Navy use.
PHASE III DUAL USE
APPLICATIONS: Support the Navy in transitioning the technology for Navy use.
Produce a developmental model, and integration plan for the launch and recovery
of UUVs as a modular system that can be installed on a variety of LCS ship
platforms. Support the Navy for test and validation to certify and qualify the
system for Navy use.
A lucrative market currently exists for at-sea launch and recovery of
Autonomous/Underwater Unmanned Vehicles. Current commercial launch and recovery
systems are often ship-specific and UUV/AUV-specific. Institutions such as WHOI
and private industries supporting the petroleum industry all use UUVs/AUVs and
conduct numerous launch and recovery operations every year. The ability to
operate multiple systems from a common platform is seen as an advantage since
it affords the operators flexibility of both ship design and AUV/UUV
1. "REMUS 100."
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution website, http://www.whoi.edu/main/remus100
2. “HUGIN AUV Launch &
Recovery System.” YouTube. KONGSBERG Gruppen, 16 November 2011. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-H5uZWv22Ws
3. "REMUS 6000."
Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution website. http://www.whoi.edu/main/remus6000
4. “STANAG 4194:1983
Standardized Wave and Wind Environments And Shipboard Reporting Of Sea
Conditions.” SAI Global, 2017. http://infostore.saiglobal.com/store/details.aspx?ProductID=456675
KEYWORDS: Shipboard Launch
and Recovery of UUVs; Unmanned Underwater Vehicles; Off-board Vehicles;
Autonomous Underwater Vehicles; Handling System; REMUS
** TOPIC NOTICE **
These Navy Topics are part of the overall DoD 2018.1 SBIR BAA. The DoD issued its 2018.1 BAA SBIR pre-release on November 29, 2017, which opens to receive proposals on January 8, 2018, and closes February 7, 2018 at 8:00 PM ET.
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