Workshop on Acoustic Detection and Classification of UXO in the Underwater Environment

SERDP and the Office of Naval Research (ONR) hosted a workshop on the acoustic detection and classification of underwater unexploded ordnance (UXO) in late 2013 and the Workshop Report has just been posted. The workshop brought together modelers and experimentalists working in both the ONR Mine Countermeasures (MCM) and SERDP Underwater Munitions programs to assess the state-of-the-art and plan future research directions for the application of acoustic sensors to munitions response.

A winged autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) using an acoustic sensor to search for buried UXO below the sea floor.

A winged autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) using an acoustic sensor to search for buried UXO below the sea floor.

Although there is significant overlap between the research issues involved in the acoustic detection of bottom mines and underwater UXO, there are operational differences between the two applications that must be considered by the research community. Examples of the many differences discussed by workshop participants are:

  • Success is driven by speed of operations for MCM versus costs of operations and ecological impacts for UXO remediation. Human risk is a factor for both, but with differing metrics.
  • UXO will probably be buried and often biologically fouled and chemically corroded, more than mines given the longer time left in the environment. The biofouling and corrosion may change the UXO target characteristics with time. UXO (especially smaller UXO) will probably be more mobile than mines in shallow water.
  • MCM operations are conducted by the military, whereas UXO remediation will predominately be conducted by contractors. The initial costs of UXO detection and classification systems must be included in the overall remediation costs.

Another important goal of the workshop was to familiarize the research community with the site conditions (depth, bottom condition, clutter level, etc.) at munitions response sites. Attendees from the Navy and Army Corps of Engineers gave an overview of a number of their high-priority sites. A chapter in the workshop report is devoted to this topic.

The workshop concluded with a discussion of the way forward for the acoustic portion of the SERDP underwater munitions program and development of a roadmap with suggested completion dates.

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