Invention: NRL in partnership with the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) have developed a new system where a refueling vehicle can be operated autonomously or remotely to fuel a vehicle with a magnetically coupled rapid-breakaway fuel transfer system. The system provides a self-aligning magnetic connection between the host system and a target system. The magnetic connection includes a transferrable puck that the host system manually or autonomously attaches to a target vehicle’s fuel receptacle. Enhancing the system with a controllable electromagnet, it can directly control when the puck is transferred or if a connection should be maintained during refueling. The magnetic connection differential allows the puck to connect to the target system, and in the case of a jolt to the system, the magnetic connection will be lost to the host system while the puck remains connected with the target.
Background: Other methods exist to perform similar, but incomplete aspects of this operation. Some milling machines use quick-connect/disconnect tools to allow an electrical or pneumatic connection to be made between a host system and target system. However, these are precision instruments that require an exact connection to be made and does not allow for error in this physical connection. Other pneumatic quick-disconnect mechanisms exist that require user intervention to attach and detach. Other magnetic connectors allow for the transmission of electricity (such as the MacBook Pro power adapter), but these either do not support fluid transfer or do not support self-alignment. Other magnetically-connected quick disconnect fluid transfer mechanisms exist (such as US patent number 7891637B2), but these are designed to operate under static conditions with a human in the loop to perform the connection/disconnection. They also seem to be designed to work at a lower flow rate than would be applicable to this invention.
Advantages: Transfers fluids or non-fluids, Reduces or eliminates human intervention, Automatically self-aligning, Scalable to larger fluid transfer rates.
Applications: Transfer of non-fluid: gas, power, data; Unmanned Systems: aerial, ground, water, and underwater vehicles.
Market (Audience): Potential market is broad but has specific application for autonomous unmanned vehicles (AUV). The technology is ideal for refueling or providing data transfer for small AUVs.
Technology Status: Funding for project ended 2011.
Licensing or CRADA Opportunity: US Patent application is available for license to companies with commercial interest. Collaborative research and development is available under a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA).
Lead Inventor: Gregory Scott, Control Systems Branch, NRL
Patents: US Patent Application No. 14/028077 entitled “Magnetically attracted fluid transfer system” filed on 9/16/2013 on behalf of Gregory P. Scott and Carl G. Henshaw
Navy Case Number: 101520