Development of a connectorless, inductive-power/data-transfer system

Paul Blankinship
Electronic Design Consultants
Chapel Hill, North Carolina

Wednesday, March 25, 1998
3:30 p.m.—Pacific Forum

Autonomous Undersea Vehicles (AUVs) have progressed from concept to reality in the last decade. blankinship.JPG (14747 bytes)Today, several AUVs have been developed which are capable of performing tetherless missions by swimming along a preprogrammed path. As a complement to the AUV, autonomous docks have also been in development. A docking station operates as a garage and service station at the end of each mission. The dock provides a safe refuge when the vehicle is not on a mission. It also allows the AUV to download its mission data, be reprogrammed for its next mission, and recharge its batteries.

The need to provide a communications link and recharge capability led to the development of the power/data-transfer system. The power and communications interface is via an inductive coupling, in which one part of the coupling is mounted on the AUV and the other part is mounted on the dock. In operation, the dock portion of the coupling is mated with the AUV core and forms in inductive link, or transformer. When the AUV is to leave the dock, the two parts separate, and the coupling, or interface, is broken.

Several successful seawater tests of the system occurred in the Labrador Sea during January and February 1998, including in situ battery charging, as well as immersion to 500 meters. Docking did not occur, so power/data transfer could not be performed during the Labrador Sea cruise. It was shown, however, that the data transfer components on both the vehicles and the docking stations were able to withstand the punishment of numerous deployments and recoveries. Post recovery tests showed the system to be fully operational.

Next: Algae through time and space

Last updated: December 19, 2000