In a recent study by Schultz et al (2011) the economic impact of biofouling on the Arleigh Burke-class destroyer DDG-51 was analyzed and estimated to cost the entire DDG-51 class $56M/year (direct cost of distillate fuel marine $104.16/barrel). Present practice for the control of biofouling on most U.S. Navy ships is to apply copper ablative antifouling paint and perform underwater cleaning when fouling reaches a critical level as defined by Chapter 081 of the Navy Ship Technical Manual. This approach is reactive and results in hull conditions that are both rough and fouled. An alternative and new strategy proposed by ONR is to use a proactive grooming schedule when the ship is in port. The approach is to design fully autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV), HullBUG (Hull Bioinspired Underwater Grooming), which will gently clean the hull of biofilms and immature fouling organisms at a frequency required to keep the surface free of fouling. This will maintain the hull in a smooth and fouling-free condition. Research funded by the Office of Naval Research (N N000141010919) has demonstrated the feasibility of such a method (Tribou and Swain 2010) and also led to the development of a prototype AUV to implement the method (SeaRobotics).
This research includes the testing, evaluation and optimization of the prototype HullBUG AUV under realistic hull fouling and seawater conditions.
The facility used to test the HullBUG AUV is located in Port Canaveral, Florida, and includes a large underwater test platform for the vehicle as well as a support vessel to manage all operations.