Pioneer Sea Glider

Period of Performance: 05/29/2003 - 01/15/2004


Phase 1 SBIR

Recipient Firm

Pioneer Astronautics
11111 W. 8th Ave., Unit A Array
Lakewood, CO 80215
Principal Investigator


The proposed Pioneer Sea Glider is a new method for underwater transport of equipment and personnel over long distances in a quiet manner. A unique buoyancy control system is based on the conversion of liquid nitrous oxide to a mixture of gaseous nitrogen and oxygen. This nitrous-oxide-derived buoyancy gas also provides breathing air and heat for crews and is based on technology developed and patented by Pioneer Astronautics for long-duration space flight, SCUBA, and terrestrial rescue operations. Because one volume of nitrous oxide gas dissociates to 1.5 volumes of nitrogen plus oxygen, buoyancy gas mass requirements are reduced by one-third compared to those required for other gases. In contrast to successfully demonstrated sea gliders currently used for unmanned oceanographic research purposes, the Pioneer Sea Glider will provide much greater carrying capacity and speed. The Pioneer Sea Glider will be capable of operations between the surface and maximum depths of about 500 meters (1,640 feet) in seawater. The proposed buoyancy control system will accommodate the increased drag resulting from the higher desired velocity. Mission durations of several days or even longer are possible. Potential near-term commercialization of the Pioneer Sea Glider centers on military applications including deployment of sensors, unmanned aerial vehicles, and personnel. Closely following are non-military oceanographic research applications for sample collection and scientific observations. A potential market for commercial SCUBA divers also offers great promise.