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Development of Explosive Non-Acoustic Sensing on Remotely Operated Vehicles for Littoral Threat Characterization in Complex Seabed Environments



OBJECTIVE: Develop novel methods and/or technologies for a combination of ambient, passive sensing and/or controllable, active source sensing and multi-sensor fusion solutions in order to improve subsea target characterization of mines, UW-IEDs, and UXO on a ROV platform. 

DESCRIPTION: The Navy seeks new non-acoustic sensing methods and/or sensor fusion technologies to detect and characterize man-made objects of interest in littoral environments that are relevant to expeditionary mine warfare and unexploded ordnance remediation. Current and evolving threats to maritime dominance require the Navy to adapt to potential hazards from a variety of sources, which could include terrorism, and to operate in increasingly difficult environments. Objects of interest may be hidden or obscured by seabed features such as vegetation, corals, rocks, biologics, man-made debris, and scouring/burial. Therefore, the Navy needs an improved capability to localize and classify objects of interest in complex seabed conditions that currently pose a challenge to successful identification of objects using solely acoustic or optical methods. Multi-axis/multi-sensor methods deployed from unmanned systems such as small inspection-class remotely or autonomously operated vehicles may provide the advanced classification and target identification capability to fill these gaps. Proposed concepts should focus on sensing techniques that significantly improve target classification, identification and localization, and provide effective clutter rejection capability. For example, the proposed non-acoustic sensors should improve Pd/Pc by detecting targets (e.g. targets concealed by marine growth or sediment) that image only sensors might miss, and improve contact localization accuracy (CLA). The sensor should also achieve clutter reduction (reduced false alarm rate) when compared to existing image-only sensors operating in complex seabed environments. Practical limitations of the proposed system should be addressed to include size, weight, and power (SWaP) as well as deployment modalities from unmanned systems. To ensure that the platform remains human-portable, the size, weight and mechanical design attributes suitable for human launch, recovery and operations, from small boats is important. Integration must enable plug-and-play addition of the advanced sensor module onto two-person portable, inspection class ROV in accordance with two person lift criteria specified in Table XXXVIII of MILSTD 46855A (i.e between 74 and 88 pounds weight in air). Additionally, the sensor solution must be capable of being integrated into the topside mission planning, mission monitoring, processing, display and user-supervised control console for the ROV platform vice a stand-alone console/equipment so as not to add significant topside logistics footprint burden to space constrained small boat teams. Size/weight tradeoffs will be considered, provided the module is easily adapted for plug-and-play addition once the ROV has been lowered into the water to commence operations. Sensor module power requirements must be sufficiently low such that topside power for the existing ROV platform is sufficient to manage the additional load, or if powered module or ROV integrated batteries such that endurance is not decreased by more than 20% that inherent in the system operating without the sensor. These tradeoffs, coupled with other attributes for material handling by humans in small boats who do not have access to cranes will be of interest in the ultimate technology transition approach. Proposed solutions should include integrated data processing and display methodologies that lead to effective target detection/classification and also mitigate false alarms. Methods that yield features related to the three-dimensional character of objects of interest may lead to better representations for improved probability of identification and false alarm reduction. Successful development and transition of non-acoustic sensor methods are anticipated to improve affordability for the response ROV toolbox by reducing life-cycle costs. Acquisition costs can be reduced by focusing on state-of-the-art sensor technologies that are sufficiently mature to allow for integration and ruggedization on an ROV platform. Additionally, prior science and technology (S&T) demonstrations have validated the potential for the utility of non-acoustic sensors in improving detection, classification and localization of concealed targets in complex environments, especially in high clutter environments (see reference (5)). This improved capability offers significant cost savings in terms of operational time reduction for mine counter measures (MCM) clearance and underwater explosives threat response missions. For example, if the proposed solution can decrease the average MCM clearance mission duration by 50%, the cost savings per mission can be calculated in terms of the total number of man-hours saved. Collectively, the investment in this initiative to develop new sensor technologies and integrate them into COTS-based ROV platforms should yield significant acquisition cost avoidance over a full-scale development alternative strategy. By leveraging emerging sensors and inserting the technology into the EOD response toolbox, incremental improvements can be achieved to the baseline response platform and sensor suite. From an operational perspective, reduction in total mission time for mission performance in more complex environments, and the resulting manpower savings associated with integrating a solution into human-portable toolkits offer improved affordability benefits for the Navy. 

PHASE I: The small business will develop a concept and conceptual design of an innovative non-acoustic sensor system that will improve probabilities of detection, classification, identification, and localization of naval mines, UW-IEDs, and UXO in complex seabed environments. The company will investigate methods that yield improved characterization of targets in order to reduce false alarms, assess design feasibility and unmanned system integration implementation tradeoffs, and develop the detailed specifications for a proposed sensing technology as well as outline design requirements for developing a Phase II prototype. The Phase I Option, if awarded, will include the initial design specifications and capabilities description to build a prototype in Phase II. 

PHASE II: Based on the results of Phase I and the Phase II Statement of Work (SOW), the small business will develop a non-acoustic sensor system prototype and validate it with respect to the objective stated above. The company will also conduct engineering tradeoff studies to size the system and all necessary interfaces to fit into inspection-class USN remotely or autonomously operated vehicles in line with SWaP information presented in the above description, demonstrate the performance of a prototype system through experimentation, and quantify its performance specifications. The small business will also document the system specifications, capabilities, and limitations under various operational scenarios. The small business will use the evaluation results to refine the prototype into an design that will meet Navy requirements. The company will prepare a Phase III development plan to transition the technology to Navy and potential commercial use. 

PHASE III: The small business will be expected to support the Navy in transitioning the non-acoustic sensor system technology for Navy use. Optimization of the system design based on Phase II test and evaluations will be performed. The company will also fabricate and integrate a system with USN platforms, to include the future Navy Expeditionary Unmanned Systems Program of Record, or surrogate unmanned system platforms and validate performance in an operationally relevant environment. Assessment of the manufacturing process and potential limitation for fabrication techniques and module-level low-rate production methods and tooling will be expected to occur. Lastly, the company will develop operations and maintenance documentation and related technology transition materials. Private Sector Commercial Potential: This technology would reduce the complexity of the system being deployed, decrease cost, and increase operational effectiveness and flexibility. This technology would have applications for search and rescue and within the oil and gas industry for conducting surveys where multiple sensors are needed. For the same reasons, the technology would also have many applications for homeland defense. 


1. Bono, J., 2002, Active electromagnetic detection of objects buried in the sea bottom, Proceedings of IEEE/MTS Oceans 2002, 974-977: DOI 10.1109/OCEANS.2002.1192101.

2. Purpura, J.W., Wynn, W.M., Carroll, P.J., 2004, Assessment of an active electromagnetic sensor buried naval mines, Proceedings of IEEE/MTS Oceans 2004, 879-889.

3. Evans, R.L., 2007, Using controlled source electromagnetic techniques to map the shallow section of seafloor: From the coastline to the edges of the continental slope, Geophysics, 72, 105-116.

4. USN, 2012, Unmanned systems integrated roadmap: FY 2013-2038, Open Publication 14-S-0553;

5. T. R. Clem, J. T. Bono, D. J. Overway, G. Sulzberger, and L. Vaizer, Magnetic Sensors Operated from Autonomous Underwater Vehicles for the Application of Buried Target Identification, Marine Electromagnetics Conference 2009, July 2009. -


KEYWORDS: Mine Countermeasures; Non-acoustic Sensors; ROV; UUV; Underwater Explosives Detection; UW-IED; UXO 

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