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A Propulsion System for Low-Speed Maneuvering Underwater Vehicles

Florence M. Mbithi, Nikolaos I. Vitzilaios, Matthew J. Rutherford, Kimon P. Valavanis


Underwater vehicles performing precision inspection and non-destructive evaluation in tightly constrained or delicate underwater environments must be small, have low-speed maneuverability and a smooth streamlined outer shape with no appendages. In this paper, the design, development and evaluation of a new propulsion system for such underwater vehicles is presented. The propulsion system consists primarily of a syringe and a plunger driven by a linear actuator and uses different inflow and outflow nozzles to provide continuous propulsive force. A prototype of the proposed propulsion mechanism is built and tested. The practical utility and potential efficacy of the system is demonstrated and assessed via direct thrust measurement experiments and by use of an initial proof-of-concept test vehicle. Experiments are performed to enable the evaluation and modeling of the thrust output of the mechanism as well as the speed capability of a vehicle employing the propulsion system.

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