A few days ago Eric Bleicken (Grifin LLC of TechPlace) picked up his patent from his attorney, Chris Caseiro, for an underwater vehicle propulsion and control concept. There is no propeller, diving planes or rudder. Rather, it has two counter rotating propulsor rings that circumvent the entire hull. Eric explains that most of the work performed by a propeller takes place at the tips of a propeller’s blades. His propulsors act like the tips of many, very large diameter propellers so they promise to be very efficient and quiet.

An illustration of Grifin's submarine design.

An illustration of Grifin’s submarine design.

In front and behind these propulsor blades are vanes that direct the flow of water in order to maneuver the vessel while it is underway. The vessel will hover when one propulsor is driven forward and the other is backed down. While hovering, the underwater vehicle is totally maneuverable. It moves sideways, vertically, or rotates in place. Eric (formally with the Navy Underwater Demolition Teams (UDT) and commercial diver) notes that this is an enormous operational advantage.

Bleicken’s patent is the product of a 2009 Maine Technology Institute (MTI) Seed Grant. A non-disclosure agreement is now in the works with the Advanced Structures and Composites Center’s, W2 Ocean Engineering Laboratory at the University of Maine. Eric is a UMaine alumnus and is hopeful that a good working relationship will evolve.

While a Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) program manager, Eric helped initiate the Navy’s Advanced SEAL Delivery System (ASDS) program that cost more than $850,000,000 before congress finally shut off funding. He believes that his invention can eclipse any manned or unmanned vehicle developed or currently in the works. But he also understands the pitfalls of bucking the momentum of the government R&D community’s status quo.

Eric’s hope is to get preliminary design and computer modeling accomplished so that he can make a case for research and development funds. For that Eric readily admits that he needs people who are much smarter than he is. He hopes that this talent resides with the Advanced Structures and Composites Center.