Autonomous Underwater Munitions and Explosives of Concern Detection System

During this time of vigilance against terrorist activity, in situ detection and testing of seawater for trace levels of explosives is a high priority of the Navy and the DoD, both for protection of U.S. personnel and assets and for environmental monitoring of Navy-patrolled littoral waters. NRL has immersed itself in this project and surfaced with a solution: the use of Hydroid REMUS100 autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) equipped with high throughput microfluidic immunosensors (HTMIs) and high aspect ratio microstructures (HARM) containing immobilized antibodies.Underwater Explosive

Having the ability to monitor the composition of waterways about the continental US, it’s territories, and our allies, is of ongoing concern for the Navy and the Department of Defense.  Highly energetic small molecules classified as explosives and their associated degradation products pose major security and environmental concerns during this era of imminent domestic terroristic activity.

Traditionally, offsite chemical analysis has been performed using several conventional analytical instrumentation, including surface-enhanced Raman spectroscopy, ion mobility spectrometry, liquid chromatography, gas chromatography coupled to mass spectrometers, and more. Size notwithstanding, these instruments require significant expertise to employ.  Real-time reporting from remote analysis of trace levels of explosives has been an elusive target.

The most prolific field-deployable detection system has been the highly trained, skilled canine.  Of course, dogs are expensive to train, are subject to fatigue and injury, and require continuous maintenance.  The canine’s strong sense of smell is rendered ineffective when the target which needs to be analyzed is a submerged plume within a body of seawater.

A new breed of highly sensitive immunosensors embedded into autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), offers distinct advantages such as (1) enabling on-site in situ assessment that eliminates the low bias due to sample storage, degradation, and transport; (2) remote sensing capability that minimizes putting people in harm’s way; and (3) programmable vehicles that can survey the area of interest for the targets.

The objective of Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) Project MR-201002, Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) Munitions and Explosives of Concern (MEC) Detection System, was to integrate an untethered and unmanned underwater vehicle with a total field magnetometer for underwater munitions detection and upgrade magnetic noise compensation software to reduce interference from electrical and dynamic influences such as vehicle heading, pitch and roll.  With any highly-sensitive equipment, having the clearest possible image is of high importance.  Having your lens designed, engineered and produced in one facility will ensure accuracy and performance.  At UKA, that is what we offer.  Complete hands-on production from start to finish.

The integrated AUV MEC Detection System consists of a high sensitivity Geometrics G-880AUV cesium vapor magnetometer integrated with a Teledyne-Gavia AUV and associated Doppler-enabled inertial navigation system, acoustic bathymetric, and sidescan imaging modules. Total field magnetic measurements are recorded with asynchronous time-stamped data logs that include position, altitude, heading, pitch, roll, and electrical current usage. Surveys are performed by using preplanned mission information including speed, height above seafloor or depth, and lane or transect spacing.

The AUV MEC Detection System consists of the following primary components: a Teledyne-Gavia model autonomous underwater vehicle, a magnetometer module, and magnetic compensation. The Gavia AUV is a modular underwater robotic system that follows a pre-programmed course, collecting environmental data in situ. Missions are planned using a graphical user interface (GUI) to specify waypoints or survey lines, prescribed depths or altitudes, and desired sensor configurations. The Gavia base vehicle is a mobile sensor platform that can be user-configured on deck for a particular task or operating condition by the addition of one or more sensor, navigation, or battery modules.

Continually, technology increases, changes and becomes more efficient.  AUV technology will continue to help us be vigilant at home against munitions in our waterways.

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Posted in Military News, Surveillance and Security.