Office of Naval Research Continues Funding for Innovative Research in Unmanned Naval Vessels
The Atlantic Center for the Innovative Design and Control of Small Ships (ACCeSS) announced the renewal of annual funding worth $4.5 million over five years by the Office of Naval Research(ONR).
ACCeSS is an international consortium of university and industry partners founded in 2002 to integrate engineering disciplines associated with shipbuilding, while utilizing the corresponding unique education and research environment to recruit, train and nurture the long-term careers of young engineers. The collaborating institutions are Stevens Institute of Technology, the U.S. Naval Academy, Naval Postgraduate School, University College London, Florida Atlantic University, Webb Institute, George Mason University, Lockheed Martin, AMSEC LLC (Northrop-Grumman), and Band-Lavis & Associates.
“The continued support from the Office of Naval Research validates the high-caliber achievement of ACCeSS,” says Dr. Michael Bruno, Dean of the Charles V. Schaefer, Jr. School of Engineering and Science and principal investigator. "It will allow us to continue our uniquely collaborative research and education activities, advancing the state of knowledge while at the same time training the next generation of our nation's ship designers."
According to Dr. Richard Bucknall of the University College London, ACCeSS has “allowed integration and dissemination of US-UK approaches to the education of marine engineers and naval architects and more significantly the teaching of ship design.” It has “allowed for staff and student exchange between [the constituent partners]” and facilitated “sharing of thoughts, contribution, and resources for ship design research, especially novel hullforms and control of vehicles including autonomy.”
ACCeSS has evolved into a flourishing hub of naval research. Initially, it focused on high-speed craft, and it has broadened to include multi-hull, trimaran and unmanned surface vessels. Ongoing multi-hull and trimaran vessel research provides extra protection while reducing power requirements at high speeds. It also provides stability for larger deck areas and increases stealth capabilities.
Meanwhile, ACCeSS is beginning work on enhancing durability and endurance of unmanned surface vessels, which are small vessels launched from mother-ship to complete a solo mission. With concurrent innovation in battery technology, or a system to generate energy on board, perhaps through solar, wave, or wind energy, the vessels will perform longer unmanned operations for the Navy. ACCeSS stands at forefront of this emergent research.
"ACCeSS is a rare and well established success story of collaborative engagement between diverse academic institutions both within and outside the US, government, and industry, with a proven track record while maintaining the proper balance of excellence in research, relevance to the Navy, and innovative education in a field with long reaching implications for US competitiveness," says Dr. Fotis Papoulias of the Naval Postgraduate School.
“ACCeSS is an excellent consortium of partners who bring complementary skills to the program in support of Naval engineering research and education,” says Dr. Manhar Dhanak. “We at Florida Atlantic University are grateful to ONR for their continued support of the program.”
"ACCeSS provides an educational test bed for the state-of-the-art naval architecture design tool development”, says Dr. Chi Yang of George Mason University. “ACCeSS offers a platform for developing hydrodynamic optimization tools to investigate innovative new-type hull forms and educate next-generation naval architects.”
“This support helps extend our capacity to enhance and empower the education of the finest young naval engineers,” says Dr. Alan Blumberg, George Meade Bond Professor & Director of the Center for Maritime Systems.
ACCeSS continues to advance the current and future capabilities of naval engineering, especially in undergraduate education that actively involves students in research programs, and the continuation of ONR support means a greater number of students can benefit from the program. Dr. Raju Datla, research associate professor at the Center for Maritime Systems and co-investigator of the ACCeSS grant, has several undergraduate and graduate students working with the high-speed towing tank at the Davidson Laboratory. They set up models, calibrate instrumentation, run tests, analyze data, make presentations at consortium meetings, and participate in annual society meetings. Dr. Datla says, “The towing tank, wave-maker, and water itself comprise a great hands-on learning environment for students.”
“The continuation of ACCeSS promotes continued collaboration between each of the universities,” says Dr. Richard Royce of Webb Institute. “[The partners] have differing skill sets and capabilities. Our strength lies in the fact that we recognize those competencies and carry research across the appropriate ACCeSS partners…The end result is better research, and more importantly, improved learning opportunities for all of our students.”