$25M SBIR Contract for Air-Droppable SeaScout UAV-USV
Small business qualifier Oregon Iron Works, Inc. in Clackamas, OR won a $25 million not-to-exceed, indefinite-delivery/ indefinite-quantity Phase III Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) program contract for Topic N04-044: “Airdroppable High Speed, Low Signature Craft.” DID has covered the SBIR process before, and explained that Stage III is one step below full commercialization and procurement.
The SBIR Q&A associated with this subject is very interesting. SeaScout is a mixed UAV-USV (unmanned surface vessel) flying boat design, though a Q&A excerpt for the program reads:
“An unmanned air vehicle is not the target for this SBIR N04-044. The solicitation is aimed at an unmanned (at least for part of the mission profile) maritime surface vehicle that is air delivered. It is investigating the extremely long endurance times of a surface vehicle, and the relative affordability, combined with the high speed of air delivery. However, a hybrid unmanned air vehicle and water surface vehicle could be considered on its relative merits in this solicitation. A point for its relative value is its ability to take off from the ocean for the mission(s) envisioned if used in both modes (surface and air) and/or its ability to perform mission actions while in the surface mode. Likewise, a hybrid surface and subsurface vehicle that is air delivered is also acceptable as a proposal.”
The contract provides for services and materials for engineering tasks, including research and development, prototype and testing of the SeaScout Unmanned Air Vehicle. Work will be performed in Clackamas, OR and is expected to be complete in April 2011. This contract was competitively procured using SBIR Program Solicitation under Topic N04-044 and 25 offers were received. The Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, Lakehurst, NJ is the contracting activity (N68335-06-D-0005).
“The 3m (10ft)-span all-composite vehicle weighs 135kg (300lb), including an 11kg simulated payload, and is powered by a 35hp (25kW) Wankel engine. [The firm] is now designing a Spiral 1 vehicle, with longer wingspan, revised hydrodynamics and an electro-optical/infrared sensor turret on the nose that will be used for military demonstrations at NAS Patuxent River, Maryland in the first quarter of .”
The Sea Scout is apparently equipped with flightTEK avionics and VACS guidance and control software from Geneva Aerospace, who leveraged their core auto-landing technology from a separate NAVAIR SBIR program. The craft is designed to take off and land in wave heights up to sea state 3, and the next steps in this spiral development program The next steps for include refining the air vehicle aerodynamics and hydrodynamics, as well as expanding the operating envelope of the aircraft on the water and in the air.
See also this Oregon Iron Works January 2007 ASNE Conference briefing [2.2 MB, PDF format] for further details re: the Sea Scout program vehicles, timelines, and expected roles.
USVs are an interesting field these days. Both Singapore and the US Navy are testing the Spartan Scout, an unmanned rigid hull inflatable boat which may prove useful to in-shore ship protection and anti-piracy missions.
The Israelis, meanwhile, have developed the “Stingray,” which looks like an unmanned SeaDoo jet ski. We have no idea whether they’re air-droppable or not – but if you’ve been near a lake lately, the idea of doing an impromptu test with the manned SeaDoos has probably crossed your mind.
Supplanted Section Due to Updates
A WIG (Wing In Ground-effect) USV derived from home-built WIG “flying boat” kits like the Hoverwing, or something like Iran’s ballyhooed and very non-stealthy “stealth flying boat” could theoretically be adapted for use in this mode.
The result would stradde the line between UAVs and USVs, but it would face significant challenges. Not least of which would be its difficulty undertaking flight or even staying intact in medium to high wave conditions, and the need to demonstrate endurance that must be measured in days.
We’ll just have to wait to see the final design.