September 26, 2012      

PATRIOT LEDGER: Quincy, MA? Bluefin Robotics, a subsidiary of Battelle, together with the Columbia Group launches Next-Gen, large submersible vehicle, Proteus.

Now undergoing sea trials at a Navy base in Panama City, Fla., the Proteus is Bluefin?s largest vehicle to date ? and its first that accommodates passengers. It can seat up to seven divers, or run in unmanned mode.

?There?s instability around the globe right now with many different nations increasing their navies, and anti-submarine warfare is very important,? said Tony Lorusso, a program manager at Bluefin. ?This system could be used for that.?

Bluefin executives hope the prototype will provide a lucrative source of new business for the company, which moved to Quincy?s Fore River shipyard in 2010.

The Proteus is the first manned vehicle developed by the company. A team of divers can control the vehicle with a helicopter-type joystick and examine underwater data on a computer screen with the help of an underwater mouse.

At 26 feet long, the $9 million experimental vehicle can travel more than 500 nautical miles at a top speed of 10 knots on lithium battery power and carry up to 1,800 pounds.

Proteus3

Bluefin plans to lease the vehicle to the military and industry to test propulsion systems and payloads such as underwater data communications and acoustic imaging. Or it can be used for human transport, such as dropping off or picking up teams of divers. Testing is expected to be complete by January.

Nearly 20 companies are interested in trying the technology, Lorusso said. The Navy Research Lab in San Diego is the vehicle?s first client.

Bluefin is a leader in design and manufacture of Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) and related technology. Battelle has a long history of meeting the technology needs of the U.S. Navy, including work on the Advanced SEAL Delivery System. The Columbia Group has provided the U.S. and foreign navies with Swimmer Delivery Vehicles for more than 20 years.

The Navy has persistently outlined the need for industry to develop next-generation UUVs with increased mission time, range and payload capacity.

Meeting that need, the Columbia Group developed the hull mechanical and electrical systems for the large Dual Mode Undersea Vehicle, capable of operation in either manned or autonomous modes.

Proteus incorporates Bluefin?s autonomy technology for use in unmanned missions. Bluefin also supplies the mission planning capabilities and the power solution. Battelle provides the battery charging and systems integration support.

Dubbed a ?beastly drone? by Wired Magazine last year, the vehicle is 25-feet long, weighs 6,200 pounds and has up to 400 pounds of lift capability. It is capable of operating unmanned or manned.