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Surfzone Optical Imaging



OBJECTIVE: Develop a capability to image through waves and ocean turbulence in shallow coastal waters from small surface ships and/or airborne platforms. 

DESCRIPTION: The Navy and Coastal Battlefield and Reconnaissance Analysis (COBRA) program is seeking innovative approaches to perform optical imaging in surf zones, and through the air water interface. Optically-based mine detection sensors face exacting challenges in forming images of sufficient quality for accurate object detection and discrimination through the air-water interface. Current technical approaches are unable to avoid the effects of the surface on target imagery. This R&D solution will mitigate the surface effects prior to and/or in the DSP (Digital Signal Processing) and significantly improve mission effectiveness. Specifically, the presence of non-regular and breaking waves result in caustic bands and significant image distortion due to lensing/defensing, and scattering and opacity due to white caps and foam. All of these effects are time variant, creating an extra level of complexity. This topic is soliciting hardware and software approaches to addressing these challenges. Software and hardware solutions will be form-fit-function compatible with the COBRA Mine Warfare (MIW) sensor. Successful proposals may address either or both lensing/defensing and/or scattering, although priority will be given to solutions that address the full problem. Hybrid approaches are expected for the full solution. For example, physical models have been developed and used to correct for caustic bands and lensing/defensing; however, they do not explicitly address scattering due to surf and foam. A hybrid approach may combine such a physical model with techniques developed for imaging in a scattering medium such as structured illumination or pseudorandom code modulation. The figure of merit should be image quality; specifically, the approach must maintain a sufficiently high modulation transfer function at relevant spatial resolution for the intended application. The spatial resolution will be equal to or greater than current the COBRA Block I sensor. Detection algorithm development is not part of this opportunity; however, some knowledge of surf zone mine detection algorithms is needed to validate the approach. The through-surf imaging technique will be integrated with existing mine detection algorithms to baseline performance against uncorrected imagery. Relevant depths are approximately a few to 10 m, and image acquisition rate must be the video frame rate of relevant sensors. Size, Weight, and Power (SWaP) shall be compatible with the COBRA sensor. Successful Phase I and Phase II efforts will produce a capability that is a suitable pre-planned product improvement (P3I) for COBRA as an engineering change proposal as well as a potential upgrade to other existing optical airborne mine detection platforms. The Phase I effort will not require access to classified information. If need be, data of the same level of complexity as secured data will be provided to support Phase I work. Work produced in Phase II may become classified. Note: The prospective contractor(s) must be U.S. Owned and Operated with no Foreign Influence as defined by DOD 5220.22-M, National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual, unless acceptable mitigating procedures can and have been be implemented and approved by the Defense Security Service (DSS). The selected contractor and/or subcontractor must be able to acquire and maintain a secret level facility and Personnel Security Clearances, in order to perform on advanced phases of this contract as set forth by DSS and NAVSEA in order to gain access to classified information pertaining to the national defense of the United States and its allies; this will be an inherent requirement. The selected company will be required to safeguard classified material IAW DoD 5220.22-M during the advance phases of this contract. 

PHASE I: Develop a concept for surf zone imaging through waves and ocean turbulence in shallow coastal waters from small surface ships and/or airborne platforms. Demonstrate the feasibility of the proposal approach through a combination of analytical modeling and bread boarding activities with the goal of validating the analytical model through breadboard testing. Identify areas of technical risk and a path to retiring each risk. The Phase I Option, if exercised, will include the initial design specifications and capabilities description to build a prototype solution in Phase II. 

PHASE II: Design, develop, and deliver an advanced prototype for surf zone imaging. Conduct functional testing of the prototype-imaging sensor in a contractor laboratory environment and facilitate subsequent developmental testing in a representative field environment (i.e., in a surf zone). Integrate the data output and/or DSP algorithms into existing automated detection algorithms for performance assessment. Develop a Phase III plan. It is probable that the work under this effort will be classified under Phase II (see Description section for details). 

PHASE III: Support the Government in transitioning the surf-imaging tool for Navy use. Dual use opportunities include coastal and surf zone survey and mapping and coastal search and rescue operations. 


1. Wu, Y. and Shroff, H. “Faster, sharper and deeper: structured illumination microscopy for biological imaging.” Nature Methods, 15, 2018.

KEYWORDS: Surf Zone Imaging; Fluid Lensing; Through Wave Imaging; Mine Detection; Structured Illumination In I’s A Scattering Medium; Pseudorandom Code Modulation 

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