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Advanced Technology (AT) | test planning & vehicle operations (tpvo)

General Test Vehicle ShopARL Keyport Detachment is located on the NUWCDETKPT base in the small town of Keyport in western Washington state. This site provides convenient access to a number of acoustic tracking ranges and undersea test facilities operated by NUWC. The primary mission of the detachment is to provide vehicle based in-water test support to the many ARL programs developing and demonstrating advanced undersea technologies.

A small group of ARL engineers and technicians permanently stationed at Keyport maintain and operate a small fleet of ARL test vehicles. These research vehicles were designed to serve as test and demonstration platforms for a wide variety of undersea technologies.

These include:

  • Undersea sensors and acoustic transducers
  • Sonar signal processors
  • Guidance and control processors and algorithms
  • Fuzzy logic and intelligent control systems
  • Acoustic and fiber optic communication systems
  • Navigation components and systems
  • Propulsion power generation and conversion systems
  • Advanced propulsors and hydrodynamic component


ARL maintains a multipurpose fleet of general test vehicles for use in technology development for unmanned undersea vehicles (UUV) and undersea weapon systems. These vehicles are easily adapted to a variety of underwater vehicle tests and provide a stable, reliable test platform.  Scenarios routinely supported include acoustic sonar experiments, guidance and control exercises, propulsion system demonstrations, advanced propulsor development, and, recently, UUV technology demonstrations.

Each of these sophisticated vehicle systems has several features in common. These include forward-looking acoustic arrays, complete inertial navigation systems with integrated rate and position control, a programmable trajectory sequencer with "download" capability from a portable deck launch unit, and variable speed battery-powered electric propulsion systems. Each vehicle can also be powered by advanced thermal energy systems allowing extended range and speed possibilities. The system concept is a modular approach allowing real-time configurations for virtually any undersea experiment. Various shell lengths allow different trim and buoyancy characteristics. 

New technologies have recently been developed and tested in the test vehicle fleet in order to accommodate experiments and to keep the vehicles as current as possible. An organized node-oriented distributed control architecture has allowed for the extended use of embedded controllers and further segmenting of key functions. Bottom-searching sonars allow the vehicles to operate in variable depth water and perform bottom-searching missions. Fiber-optic gyroscopes allow a significant performance and precision gain in the navigation systems. Continuously variable engine speed controllers allow an added dimension of vehicle control stability. Additionally, the fiber-optic guidance wire system has been improved by moving to a smaller fiber with a balanced feed system allowing smaller cable.