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Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV)-Mounted Acoustic Generator



TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Battlespace, Electronics, Sensors

ACQUISITION PROGRAM: PMS406, Unmanned Maritime Systems Program Office

The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with section 5.4.c.(8) of the solicitation. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.

OBJECTIVE: Develop an innovative acoustic generator capable of being mounted to and operating from an Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV).

DESCRIPTION: Many Navy systems are being developed that use Fleet-class USVs. These USV-based systems require lighter weight, lower drag, and smaller footprint products than their legacy counterparts (Ref. 1). There are currently a number of technology development efforts for various types of sensors and emitters that will be suitable for integration with a Fleet-class (11-meter) USV. However, many of these sensors and emitters are towed systems which result in increased drag and fuel consumption, as well as reduced capability in shallow water and constrained waterways (Ref. 2). By eliminating the towed system from the USV, a reduction in towed system drag on the craft will result in increased endurance for the system while operating at the same speed. This will increase system capability by potentially increasing the coverage rate and allowing its use in shallower water and constrained waterways than current towed systems.

The US Navy is seeking an innovative acoustic source capable of generating a broad range of outputs that would be mounted either above the waterline or within the hull and structure of an existing Navy USV. However, if a solution were sub-surface, the acoustic generator would be stowed above the waterline or within the USV hull-form until performing operations. The system must be lightweight (less than 200lb); contained in a small-volume (less than 30cft); require minimal electrical or propulsion power (less than 10kw electrical power; Propulsive Power 90hp); have a high acoustical power radiation (between 175-185dB, each over frequency range of 10Hz to 5kHz); and mitigate the effects of craft speed and its variations (be speed independent). The acoustic generator will be autonomously activated by the USV’s central command and control.

By eliminating towed items, the towed system drag to the Unmanned Surface Vehicle (USV) can be reduced by up to 50%. That savings will result in a lower fuel burn rate and an increased endurance. An increase in endurance will increase the capability of the USV and multiple payloads can be carried on the USV for multiple mission sets. Dragging these systems through the seawater increase the life-cycle cost based on the maintenance associated with the seawater environment. By removing the acoustic source from the water, the mean time before maintenance will increase which will reduce the life-cycle cost of these systems.

PHASE I: The company will develop a concept for an acoustic generator meeting the requirements in the description. The company will identify the technical feasibility of the proposed concept and demonstrate the concept through modeling, analysis, and/or bench top experimentation where appropriate. The results will be used to determine the feasibility of the concept through effectiveness modeling for an innovative acoustic generator that meets the needs of the Navy. The Phase I final report shall capture the technical feasibility and economic viability for the proposed concept. The Phase I Option, if awarded, should include the initial description and capabilities to build the unit in Phase II.

PHASE II: The company will develop and fabricate a prototype acoustic generator based on the Phase I work and Phase II Statement of Work (SOW) for demonstration and characterization of key parameters and objectives. At the end of Phase II, prototype acoustic generator components shall be tested according to requirements set forth in the description. Based on lessons learned in Phase II through the prototype demonstration, a substantially complete design of the acoustic generator should be completed and delivered.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: The company will be expected to support the Navy in transitioning the technology for Navy use. The final acoustic generator product will need to conform to requirements as described in the description and expected to pass Navy qualification testing. A full-scale prototype will be operationally tested and certified by the Navy to be integrated with an USV for further performance testing. Private Sector Commercial Potential: Developed technologies may be of some potential benefit/use to the petroleum, water rescue/salvage, and commercial fishing industries.


  • Roberts, Scott D. Stability Analysis Of A Towed Body For Shipboard Unmanned Surface Vehicle Recovery. Thesis. Monterey, CA: The Naval Post Graduate School, 2005;
  • US Coast Guard. Boat Crew Seamanship Manual – Chapter 17: Towing. Washington, DC: Department of Homeland Security, 2003, pp17.1-17.60;

KEYWORDS: Non-towed acoustic generator; low-drag; unmanned surface vehicle; acoustic frequency and amplitude; endurance; autonomous

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