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Vehicle Test Range

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 components

The test vehicles are equipped with acoustic tracking transducers, inertial navigation systems, and vehicle position and attitude recording systems to allow accurate ground truth validation of in-water run data. The vehicles include a versatile digital autopilot and vehicle controller capable of supporting either open-loop or closed-loop runs. In the open-loop mode, a preprogrammed sequence of any series of maneuvers that the test vehicle is capable of performing is downloaded and executed. This operating mode is typically used for purposes of data collection or subsystem performance evaluation. In the closed-loop mode, the vehicle controller can be commanded to place the vehicle at a desired speed, depth, heading, and position before accepting maneuvering commands from a sonar system or other mission payload. A variety of payload interfaces can be accommodated and this operating mode has been used in many sonar performance and tactical logic demonstrations.

The ARL test vehicles are modular and are frequently reconfigured to accommodate a wide variety of component and system tests. Although the afterbody hardware is 21 inches in diameter, adapter sections have been fabricated to allow the use of components from 6 to 26 inches in diameter. A variety of fire control interface, launch, and recovery components have also been fabricated to allow the launching of unusual vehicle configurations on the NUWC instrumented ranges or at remote sites around the world.

In addition to the vehicle hardware, the Keyport detachment also supports body simulation and data reduction and display systems associated with the test vehicles. The digital body simulator and related instrumentation allows closing of the feedback loop around the autopilot so that in-water runs can be simulated in the build shop. A real-time display on this system allows for rapid and thorough testing of both payload interfaces and run geometry prior to in-water testing. A data reduction and display system configured to support the test vehicles provides plots and printouts of system performance within minutes of return to the build shop.