In March 2011, the U.S. Navy's Office of Naval Research (ONR) issued a broad agency announcement to develop long endurance stealthy propulsion systems for Unmanned Undersea Vehicles (UUVs). Desired metrics included a non-battery system capable of propelling a 21" diameter UUV 30 or more hours, that was refuelable, scalable, and able to operate at depths of up to 500 feet.
In 2012, UTC Aerospace and Lynntech Inc. of College Station, Texas, were awarded Phase I contracts to develop prototype LEUVP systems.
UTC Aerospace Selected for Unmanned Vehicle Propulsion Contract
14 May 2014 - UTC Aerospace Systems has been selected by the Office of Naval Research (ONR) to proceed with the next phases of the Long Endurance Undersea Vehicle Propulsion (LEUVP) energy program. During these follow-on phases, UTC Aerospace Systems (formerly Hamilton Sundstrand) will continue the design and development of a Proton Exchange Membrane based Fuel Cell Energy System (PES) for a 21-inch diameter Unmanned Undersea Vehicle (UUV). The work will be performed by the company's ISR and Space Systems team. UTC Aerospace Systems is a unit of United Technologies Corp.
The PES would replace existing battery systems, providing greater range and operational flexibility to the U.S. Navy. The overall objective of the program is completion of a TRL (technology readiness level) 6 demonstration. In the recently completed phase, the system operated successfully for over 30 hours using an integrated cryogenic reactant system and fuel cell power plant to provide 42 kWh of total energy over a power range of 100 to 3800 watts. Major features include a qualified fuel cell stack design, simple balance of plant and dense reactant storage. This simple system architecture is a safe, reliable and affordable solution for a 21-inch diameter vehicle which is scalable to larger displacement UUVs and enables the broad range of operational capability needed for future autonomous underwater vehicle missions.
"The fuel cell hardware design selected for the LEUVP program is identical to that being used for our qualified Fuel Cell Power Module on the Spanish Navy's S-80 submarine," said G. Allen Flynt, general manager, Space Systems, UTC Aerospace Systems. "With this heritage we feel that we are well-placed with our partners to deliver a proven option to ONR and the U.S. Navy on this program."