The U.S. Navy’s warships in the future will be safer, high-tech vessels able to sustain power and continue in battle even after taking a missile hit.
That’s the goal of UMR researchers who are working with the Navy and other universities to develop new power-distribution systems for these warships. The technology promises to improve the "survivability" of U.S. warships and increase their service life while helping to protect crews serving aboard these ships.
"The objective of this research is to make the next generation of U.S. warships more reliable in combat situations," says Dr. Steven Pekarek, assistant professor of electrical and computer engineering at UMR. "By creating a new distribution power system it will be possible to reroute power to damaged systems — such as weapons, communications and propulsion — when they are most needed. This will increase the operating abilities of the warships during combat."
Pekarek is one of three UMR faculty members involved in the research, which is funded by the Naval Surface Warfare Center. Researchers from Purdue University, the University of Wisconsin at Milwaukee, the U.S. Naval Academy and the Naval Postgraduate School also are involved in the work.
The research team is designing a sophisticated computerized system that will automatically reroute power to a ship’s damaged areas when needed. The system works much like a city power grid, in which a main monitoring system senses problem areas and reroutes power to avoid electrical outages, Pekarek says. With such a system, that ship could continue to fight its way into battle even after taking a missile hit, and could continue with its mission without needing any maintenance until returning to port, Pekarek says.
These "smart" ships also could be operated with fewer staff, he adds. "Electronically based ships can operate with the same or better performance levels with fewer personnel than older ships," says Pekarek. "In standard warships, a significant portion of the available manpower is dedicated to damage control. To safely and cost-effectively counter the threats of the future that cannot be foreseen today, ships must be engineered for mobility, flexibility and survivability."
The computerized power distribution system will operate in a fraction of the time it would take human teams to accomplish tasks. Built-in sensors monitor the ship at all times and send information to a computer, which in turn reconfigures the system to ensure that the necessary parts of the ships receive the needed repairs.
Five UMR graduate students and five undergraduate students are involved in the project under the supervision of Pekarek; Dr. James Drewniak, associate professor of computer and electrical engineering; and Dr. Mariesa Crow, professor of computer and electrical engineering.