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The goal of this project is to implement and demonstrate a highly-integrated and autonomous underwater vehicle-based three-dimensional (3D) electromagnetic induction (EMI) sensor technology to address unexploded ordnances (UXO) detection and classification in shallow water environments. The high clutter, object burial, and heavy marine growth often characteristic of shallow UXO environments present challenges for the detection and classification of munitions. While classification methods have demonstrated tremendous success in reducing false alarm rates and unnecessary excavations following terrestrial EMI surveys, these performance gains have yet to be fully realized in underwater environments. Underwater remotely operated vehicles (ROV) are effective tools across a variety of applications including sea mine detection, infrastructure inspection, gas/oil exploration, and search and recovery because they are straightforward to operate, precisely controllable, and can host various sensor payloads.
In this project, the project team will demonstrate the operating envelope of ROV-based EMI sensing by optimizing the survey efficiency while minimizing the hydrodynamic impacts of adding a full multi-sensor/multi-axis transient EMI (aka 3D-EMI) array to existing inspection-class platforms. The development of innovative non-acoustic sensor systems that can provide clutter rejection when required and be cost-effectively integrated into the small/available and affordable ROV assets will provide substantial progress in improving the probabilities of detection, classification, and remediation of UXO in these environments.
The project team plans to integrate and demonstrate the key technology elements required for configuring and deploying an efficient inspection-class ROV-based sensing system to detect and classify munitions in challenging seabed conditions. In contaminated areas, this technology will advance the current ability to identify individual items safely and cost-effectively. The integrated methodology includes a combination of: 1) the marine APEX 3D-EMI array system technology; 2) commercially-available inspection class ROV(s); 3) existing autonomous surface vehicles and underwater positioning systems; and 4) integrated mission autonomy, coordinated controls, operational concepts and survey design strategies. Additionally, the project team will demonstrate data processing workflows for ROV system noise compensation, data collection, mapping and advanced geophysical classification post-processing.
This project will provide several direct technological benefits including the demonstration of a new UXO survey system suitable for overcoming many of the gaps in conventional sensing platforms in nearshore and very shallow-water environments. The integrated ROV-based 3D-EMI capability is expected to shorten survey times by as much as 10 times relative to divers equipped with hand-held sensors. This could translate to considerable savings due to reduced re-acquisitions and unnecessary inspections of clutter items on or beneath the seabed.