The device allows UUVs to be transported without having to physically board the vessel.
Dr. Jennifer Guild, NUWC Division Keyport Cyber Engineering & Advanced Technology Division deputy principal engineer, developed the device, which uses special magnets to attach UUVs to vessels for transportation.
There are other features that increase the UUV’s effectiveness.
“The feature also allows the UUV to navigate and attach itself to a known object – like a buoy – so it can get picked up later at a known location,” said Jeanne Suchodolski NUWC Division Keyport Intellectual Property Counsel, who oversaw the patent process. “This increases the vehicle’s endurance since it doesn’t have to sail all the way back to the mother ship to be retrieved.”
The device is also modular and can be used by most U.S. Navy UUVs. It also helps in oceanography and oil and gas applications because the vehicle can attach itself to a piece of superstructure – like a bridge, oil rig, or underwater pipe and remain in a known, fixed spot to collect data. Thus, it won’t drift due to current or have to use its energy supply to station-keep, and the fact it’s attached at a fixed location also means there’s less error in whatever data is collected by the UUV.
According to Suchodolski, who’s been a practicing attorney for 30 years, this is the first patent case she’s seen that’s entirely female led. Six women were involved in the process from the inventor, technical writer, patent draftsman, patent assistant, paralegal, to the intellectual property counsel.
The team did the work to get the invention readily available to the force, and this fact wasn’t lost on Guild.
“It’s rare that an all-woman team would be involved from an engineering process all the way through the patent process with a female attorney as well as a female patent clerk to get this process completed,” she said. “We’re proud of this ability to have this availability of women to submit our ideas to submit through the process. Women are rare in the engineering field.”
NUWC Keyport provides advanced technical capabilities for test and evaluation, in-service engineering, maintenance and industrial base support, fleet material readiness, and obsolescence management for undersea warfare to expand America’s undersea dominance.
Story by Lonnie Collier
Naval Undersea Warfare Center Division Keyport