The Submarine Force US Pacific Fleet (SUBPAC) tasked ARL at UH with delivering a lightweight package to a submarine transiting west of the island of Oʻahu, Hawaiʻi using a commercial-off-the-shelf small unmanned aircraft system (sUAS).
Delivering packages to an underway submarine via sUAS is a unique operation that required routine, iterative testing of the sUAS, innovation of delivery and capture systems, and critical input from Navy personnel to understand the physical and logistical integration requirements with submarine structural and mission attributes.
Additive manufacturing and computer-aided design enabled rapid iterative innovation of the capture mechanism, increasing the effectiveness, portability, and robustness of the system between successive testing and evaluation exercises.
The submarine delivery concept required assessing Federal Aviation Administration and Department of Navy rules and regulations required for sUAS operations, implementing a command-and-control solution, and developing a training curriculum for the Navy sailors who volunteered to conduct the delivery mission.
ARL at UH personnel developed and executed a submarine-delivery-specific training program over the course of the twelve-month effort that, thanks to the hard work and dedication of SUBPAC personnel, enabled SUBPAC sailors to successfully conduct the logistics-delivery demonstration without operational assistance from ARL at UH personnel in October 2019.
Prior to the demonstration SUBPAC and ARL at UH personnel conducted fifteen training sessions totaling about eleven hours of sUAS flight time. See the press release here.