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US Navy develops underwater wireless battery-charging tech

Submersible drones are vulnerable when they surface to recharge, hence the need for wetter-is-better top-up tech

Uncrewed underwater vessels are playing a growing role in military operations like surveillance, but they have to either land or surface to recharge their batteries.

The US Department of Defence's Space and Naval Warfare Systems Center Pacific (SPAWAR) wants to change that with a wireless charge system for underwater deployment and a standard so all such systems work in the same ways.

Uncrewed underwater vessels' (UUVs') main applications, SPAWAR says, are mine detection and ocean floor mapping. But recharging batteries by either landing or docking with a surface ship to recharge “expose the warfighter and impose limitations on remote autonomous operations.”

The wireless recharging project started with a basic demonstration: project manager Wayne Liu showed he was able to run a proof-of-concept with his mobile phone, protected in a plastic bag, charging on a pad.

That demo worked well enough that SPAWAR researchers want to see standards created for “underwater wireless power transfer devices”.

As Alex Phipps of SPAWAR explains in the video below, the US Navy doesn't want to find itself with incompatible charging technologies because it bought UUVs from different vendors.

“Currently, if the navy buys one underwater vehicle and some sort of charger, it will only work with that brand or that particular type.

“What we're looking to do is capture the common elements that can be reused for vehicles, and create a standard that we can give to industry.” ®

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