Oscilla Power, a company working on ocean wave energy, said that it has received a grant of USD 2,00,000 from the United States Department of Energy (US DOE) to further develop technology that enable autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) to recharge themselves using ocean waves.
The company said that it is working on this Small Business Innovation and Research (SBIR) project, and will collaborate with Lockheed Martin, via their Rotary and Mission Systems group, to explore how this capability can be incorporated into their AUV and UUV systems.
Speaking about the technology, Balky Nair, President of Oscilla Power, said that “the development of a capability that can be integrated into commercial AUVs to provide enough power to recharge the on-board batteries could be potentially game-changing for ocean science and military operations.”
AUVs are now seeing significant use across a wide range of marine applications and the AUV market is projected to grow rapidly at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 20.8 per cent to more than USD 1.6 billion by 2025.
Even though, the capability of an AUV is limited by its battery capacity. An NREL report noted that there were a number of key advantages in increasing the amount of power available, particularly the ability for longer duration missions.
Besides, the Seattle-based company’s technology offers the ability for the vehicle to recharge its batteries using only the environment, potentially enabling unlimited range and duration.
The company said that solar panels have been used previously for AUV recharging, however, this approach suffered from very low power and constrained operations to daytime only.
On the other hand, a significant advantage of using waves for this purpose is that ocean waves are over 100 times more energy dense than solar, allowing for much higher power to be produced. AUV’s spend the majority of their time working at depth so higher power is advantageous to minimize surfacing and recharging time.
Meanwhile, the company is expected to demonstrate the fully working laboratory prototype by early next year. It also said that, if successful, the company will plan to work with Lockheed Martin to progress to a full ocean demonstration shortly afterwards, with the ultimate objective of transitioning the technology to commercial and military platforms.