Advanced propulsion system providing reduced drag and higher speed
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An apparatus and process for substantially reducing water drag while increasing speed and fuel economy for both underwater and surface watercraft. The apparatus and process also provides a means to approach super-cavitation speeds without explosive acceleration which is damaging to equipment and passengers by strategically reinventing the thrust mechanisms.

Simmons, John Castle (Germantown, TN, US)
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International Classes:
B63B1/38; B63H11/12; B63H11/107; (IPC1-7): B63H11/14
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We claim:

1. An apparatus and method for the reduction of water friction on surface and/or underwater craft consisting of: an effluent source which can be uniquely created for the purpose or simply be the exhaust of a thrust producing combustion or gaseous expansion process; and an effluent directing system to direct the effluent over the surface to be protected from friction in a direction generally opposite the desired motion of the craft such that the effluent is directed to make use of the effluent force for propulsion while simultaneously covering the surface area to be protected from friction thus reducing the amount of water in viscous, friction creating contact with the surface to be protected.

2. An apparatus and method applicable to surface and/or underwater craft that uses selectively directed effluent to drastically reduce the turning radius of the craft consisting of: a gaseous or liquid or mixed effluent source which can be uniquely created for the purpose of thrust or simply be the exhaust of a thrust producing combustion or gaseous expansion process; and an effluent directing array positioned along the craft to selectively direct the effluent such that sharper turning can be effected by providing more thrust on the side opposite the direction of turn desired and/or reverse thrust can be applied on the side of the desired turn and/or both and/or the fore effluent directors on the side opposite the desired direction of turn can apply forward thrust while the rear effluent directors on the side of the desired turn apply reverse thrust and/or any obvious subset or combination of the above techniques using the above assembly such that very tight turns even including static turns are practical and safe.

3. An apparatus and method as in claim 2 further comprising: computing means operatively connected to effluent directing means; and position sensing means operatively connected to computing means; and programmatic means operatively connected to computing means capable of prompting and receiving user input and/or autopilot directions including such possible examples as speed, yaw or location to be achieved and/or pre-programmed maneuvers (such as 90 degree static turn or absolute stop or maintain position/“software anchor”, etc.) such that the position sensing means is polled and the assembly and process above responsively directs effluent port direction along the arrayed (a minimum of 4 positions) effluent port direction means to achieve and/or maintain the desired control.

4. An apparatus and method for reduction of water drag on watercraft by treating the friction area and/or effluent consisting of: an effluent source which can be uniquely created for the purpose or simply be the exhaust of a thrust producing combustion or gaseous expansion process; and an effluent directing system to direct the effluent over the surface to be protected from friction in a direction generally opposite the desired motion of the craft; and electrostatic means applying a charge to the effluent directed over the friction area opposite to the natural or power aided charge of the friction area effecting a polar attraction between the effluent and the friction area to increase the proximity of the effluent to the friction area and the persistence of the protective effluent over the friction area.



[0001] Achieving high speed underwater has been a daunting task since the first submarines took to the water over a century ago. The underlying problem is simply water drag. Most watercraft are longer than they are wide making the problem less the energy required to “part the waters” and more the energy required to drag the many square inches of underwater surface area spread over the length of the watercraft against the friction of the water. More a factor at high speeds, this has historically limited underwater speed to roughly 140 feet per second. The process of supercavitation has provided opportunities for high-speed underwater travel. However, up until now the speed requirements inherent in supercavitation require that any passengers of any such craft be “shot out” at an extremely high speed and with exceptionally high g-forces. This is because supercavitation is nonfunctional at sub-supercavitation speeds. While supercavitation based bullets work well, passenger craft needing means to gradually acquire the speed required are preventing from benefiting from this new technology. Even unmanned underwater devices such as torpedoes struggle with the problems because tremendous retooling is necessary to launch the equipment with such velocity dual ignitions add additional points of failure.


[0002] It is an object of the current invention to reinvent and redesign the thrust assemblies of watercraft and water devices in such a manner that the surface area subject to water drag is effectively shielded from the water by bubbles, bubble waves and/or sheets of air.

[0003] It is also an object of the current invention to reduce the viscosity of the water surrounding the surface area to be protected from friction by heating it with the hot exhaust, where applicable, while still maintaining maximum thrust efficiency of the exhaust.

[0004] It is also an object of the current invention to so reduce the turning radius of ships that the ship can slowly rotate on it's central axis without moving forward or backwards at all. It also allows a ship to move with slow control directly to port or starboard without travel fore or aft. This allows a vast reduction in the size requirements of harbors and docking facilities and will allow large ships to safely port where they were previously unwelcome or unsafe.

[0005] It is another object of the current invention to provide a gradually accelerated means of acquiring supercavitation speeds and, upon achieving the required speed, provide a structure that automatically transitions to supercavitation thus providing a smooth transition to full supercavitation without the requirement of excessive g-forces or explosive launch facilities.

[0006] It is another object to the current invention to provide the drag protective area and viscosity reducing processes to nuclear submarines and aircraft carriers. Thus one embodiment of the current invention will include the use of steam or compressed air in place of the hot conventional exhaust gases.

[0007] It is another object of the current invention to apply an electrical charge to the air being released that is opposite in polarity to that of the friction protected area to provide an attraction that extends the persistence of contact with the friction protected area.


[0008] FIG. 1 titled “Reverse Thrust Torpedo” shows an embodiment involving a reverse thrust torpedo in which almost all the thrust is directed in the proper thrust direction but the exhaust, through a series of metered and flow balanced vents in concentric circles up and down the length of the cylinder, creates a protective drag reduced zone and maneuverability from both the aft jets and the concentric apertures along the length of the torpedo.

[0009] FIG. 2 shows a sample embodiment applied to an aircraft carrier. Angled vents shown release vent directed flow of hot air, nuclear heated steam, compressed air or combustion exhaust as indicated by the arrows and overlapping shaded areas of coverage.

[0010] FIG. 3 shows a sample embodiment of a vent cover on a ship like the one shown in FIG. 2 (or any ship) which seals when closed as shown in the first (leftmost) drawing. It acts as a thrust channel when open as shown in the second drawing in FIG. 3. It also can direct flow perpendicular to the vector of the ship for 360 degree turns at 0 knots (third) and can oppose the forward vector of the ship (fourth) for braking. The view is from the top of the vent looking down. The angle of exhaust release is flexible and helps determine the effective coverage of the drag sensitive area. The angle of extension is adjustable for differing speed and water conditions. FIG. 3 is better understood with the further explanation of one functional embodiment of this gate/vent assembly. In the displayed embodiment, an effective actuator device (such as a stepper motor) rotates a small pulley that, in turn, rotates a gear shown below the actuator which, in turn, rotates (by means of a chain loop or rotating cylinder) the gear closest to the vent cover itself which opens and closes the vent assembly. For reverse thrust (as shown in the rightmost view of FIG. 3), the entire assembly can be advanced outward (to the right in the drawing) by hydraulic (as shown) or other means to advance the vent cover/deflector to a position allowing reverse deflection of the effluent. In the picture it would appear that the extending rods would block the path of the effluent. However, these rods that hold and turn the deflector are widely spaced and thus take up a tiny portion of the area through which the reversing effluent passes.

[0011] FIG. 4 shows a side view of an embodiment of the vent cover/deflector assembly with an optionally slanted stance.


[0012] In the embodiment of the invention shown in FIG. 1, a “Reverse Thrust Torpedo” almost all of the thrust from the rocket exhaust is redirected through the directed thrust vents assembled along the length (sides) of the body. These vents are arranged as a vertically spaced series of concentric circles. The vessel body is not necessarily tapered as shown in this embodiment. However, where used, the tapering allows a further inward (towards the center of the vessel) directed thrust even further maximizing ease of coverage and minimizing the necessary number of vents required to effectively cover the area against friction. The angle of the vents is chosen to provide maximum thrust along the desired vector (essentially parallel to that of the torpedo) while covering the drag sensitive sides of the torpedo with a protective area of hot air and/or bubbles.

[0013] Thus the vector of release is approximately parallel to the vector of torpedo travel modified only slightly inward towards the center to maximize the persistence of surface contact.

[0014] Additionally, the advance nose portion of the torpedo has similar concentric circle vents which will typically be narrower to effect a lesser volume of effluent over the nose. This release is only enough to provide friction reduction over the nose. The much larger vents along the length of the cylinder release the vast majority of the gas propulsion and provide almost all the thrust.

[0015] Although substantially more internal plumbing can be added by anyone knowledgeable in the field, in this sample embodiment an open area around the area identified in FIG. 1 as “Rocket” (which is itself enclosed in a heat protective layer) acts as a pressure chamber for the exhaust gases. The amount of effluent released by each vent is controlled by the size and current position of each vent's aperture and/or bubble creation medium. These apertures can be fixed at a specific aperture but they can also be flexibly metered simply by the placement of computer driven aperture controls to reduce or increase the aperture or access to the aperture on one side or any portion of a vent to provide some or all guidance. In the example embodiment shown in FIG. 1, however, the vent apertures are fixed and a small amount of effluent is metered by rear gimbaling jets for guidance.

[0016] For different applications and speeds, the characteristics of the effluent may be modified. Screens and/or permeable surfaces or other means such as sound or electrostatic separation that break the effluent into bubbles can be located in the vents where applicable. For other particularly high thrust applications, a power stream of unmodified exhaust effluent will often be preferable.

[0017] For underwater applications, aluminum based or other known fuels that oxidize in the presence of water displace any firm requirement for oxygen tanks, thus none are shown in the illustration. Either directly from the shared pressure chamber or through more intricate plumbing, exhaust that has not escaped through the thrust vents can be metered through the gimbaling, computer directed guidance jets at the rear. Well known processes using accelerometers or other sensing means with computer control of the jets provide guidance to the target by metering the appropriate amount of exhaust through the jets whose attitude is directed by the guidance controls.

[0018] In tuning the configuration to maximize the control and effectiveness of the process, the drag reduction vent apertures will be set tightly enough to provide adequate remaining thrust to the rear jets. Tuning the apertures of the vent array will be specific to a given fuselage design. The balance between effluent available for vents versus available for the rear jets is primarily based on the amount of effluent required to provide maximum drag reduction (since effluent invested for drag reduction is still usefully producing thrust). Beyond the amount of vent released effluent experientially associated with maximized drag reduction level of each device using this process, all of the remaining effluent may be left available to the jets. If, for a given fuselage shape and size it is determined that the more effluent invested in drag reduction the better, either the balance will be tuned to leave the rear jets just barely enough effluent for reliable guidance or the rear jets can be left off entirely in favor of vent embedded directional controls described above. In this latter case, all of the effluent is used both for thrust and for drag reduction.

[0019] A similar system of concentric vents rear thrusting vents is also applicable to submarines to increase speed. As a practical matter, the engine would typically be placed fore with its effluent piped to concentric vents as far aft as is practical down the length of the sub. However, for nuclear submarines or any other nuclear device or craft, water can be taken in and released as steam in place of conventional combustion effluents.

[0020] For all applications, the passing of the effluent over a charged plate carrying a charge opposite the predominant charge of the surface area to be protected (the passive charge typical of moving bodies through water and/or a boosted charge via shipboard power source) is optionally used to increase the amount of effluent closest to the protected surface level and to maximize its positional persistence (the length of time that it remains there).

[0021] For surface craft applications, the aircraft carrier in FIG. 2 displays a sample embodiment. This approach is also very applicable to smaller craft where extremely high speed, acceleration or tight maneuverability is desired. Again, the vector of the effluent thrust direction is very close to the vector of the ship's travel with minimal adjustment made (using a device such as the one in FIG. 3 or other applicable device) to the thrust vector to maximize coverage on the friction sensitive area and persistence of contact with the friction sensitive area. Obviously, for more flat bottomed boats, vents would also be placed on the lower flat area with the same basic process.

[0022] Not shown in FIG. 2 is the source of the effluent. While this is commonly known technology, one practical source is a jet engine ported through a shared chamber (or more complex plumbing from an array of engines to any grouped array of vents). The delivery to vents will typically be from pipes above the water level with ordinary float valve backflow prevention. As shown in FIG. 2, the long slanted vents direct the effluent in a pattern. This pattern which, in this example, diverges from horizontal at the bottom is effected by sub-vents within the vents. To assure that the lower vents (where the water pressure is higher) get their share of effluent, each sub-vent has its own discrete path to the effluent source.

[0023] On aircraft carriers, since jet fuel is already carried in bulk, jet engines (located fore and directing their effluent aft through a series of vents) can be a practical means to add maneuverability and speed on an as needed basis. It may also be, for many craft, the only source of propulsion or guidance needed. However, the nuclear based conversion of water to steam or other compressed air options (including fan-jets or turbines) also are embodiments of the current invention that may increase the range using the current invention while increasing speed and maneuverability.

[0024] But that is not what is claimed. Having described the invention, modifications will be evident to those skilled in the art without departing from the scope of the invention as defined in the appended claims.