The U.S. Navy awarded a Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Phase I contract to LaserMotive of Kent, Wash., for work on an advanced communications system for vertical takeoff and landing (VTOL) vehicles.
The Navy also awarded SBIR contracts for similar work to: Dragonfly Pictures, Inc., of Essington, Penn.; and Robotic Research, LLC of Gaithersburg, Mary. All three abstracts are reproduced below.
PI: Tom Nugent
Title: Tethered VTOL Comms Relay Powered by Laser over Fiber
Abstract: Analyze a tethered VTOL system capable of carrying and maintaining the required communications relay components to at least 500 feet AGL for up to four days continuously. The VTOL and comms relay package receive power delivered using laser power from the surface vehicle over fiber optic cable and converted into electricity on-board the VTOL craft via photovoltaics. Such a system is smaller, lighter weight, and much easier to deploy and recover than any lighter than air solution (aerostat).
Dragonfly Pictures, Inc.
PI: Richard Billingslea
Title: Aerostat Communications Relay from Unmanned Surface Vehicle
Abstract: The CommLift Vertical Take-Off and Landing (VTOL) Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) is an alternate and novel approach to providing long range, over-the-horizon, communications for surface vessels; it uses a tethered electric UAV to carry a radio payload to suitable altitude, rather than an aerostat. The tether provides power from an unmanned surface vessel (USV) to the UAV and also bi-directional communications between them. Since electric power is supplied from the surface, the UAV endurance is unlimited. The essential innovations are (1) an autonomous UAV to be tethered to takeoff, follow above, and land on, a USV, (2) to provide UAV power and communications over the tether, and (3) paired UAV autopilots (one at the surface and one on the UAV) to allow the UAV to follow USV movements and to control UAV takeoff and landing. The Phase I performance metrics are demonstration of suitable power and communications over a >525 ft. tether, tethered takeoff and landing of a multirotor UAV from a 30 knot moving vehicle and control of a high voltage brushless DC motor’s speed and design of tether control system and surface based support package.
Robotic Research LLC
PI: Karl Murphy
Title: Modular Aerostat Communications Relay (MACREL)
Abstract: Robotic Research LLC in an exclusive partnership with Carolina Unmanned Systems (CUV) and Unmanned Systems International Corporation (UnSysCorp), is developing the Modular Aerostat Communications Relay system (MACRel). MACRel is a system for deployment and recovery of a Lightweight Aerostat System (LAS) to an unmanned surface vehicle (USV). The work will include a sensor study that allows for a low cost method for the MACRel system to identify and react quickly to changing environment conditions that influence the launch, stable flight and recovery of the LAS. Using sensor inputs, iMACRel makes it possible to predict when to deploy or retract tether in order to decrease strain on the aerostat and the tether itself. The objective is to increase the communications range between the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) seaframes and Mission Package Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs) by developing a modular aerostat communications relay system for the radio that is semi-autonomously deployed and retrieved from the LCS Unmanned Influence Sweep System USV.