The projects objective is to demonstrate an initial concept of operations (CONOPS) for the establishment and maintenance of a “non-mobile”, underwater test bed, where sensor systems developed for detection and classification of underwater unexploded ordnance (UXO) may be assessed for performance. The “non-mobile”, underwater test bed will facilitate all aspects of performing demonstrations for Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) funded technologies inside the sandy surf zone in water depths from 0 to 5 meters.
A standardized underwater UXO demonstration site (or “test bed”) for sensor systems developed to detect and classify underwater UXO requires unique infrastructure, formalized operating procedures, broad technical expertise, and documented success accomplishing essential tasks. The essential tasks include (1) performing environmental observations and characterization, (2) deploying, maintaining, and recovering surrogate UXO, (3) obtaining the necessary environmental permitting (in a timely fashion), and (4) providing the logistical support to coordinate lengthy, multi-institutional exercises. Consequently, Naval Surface Warfare Center Panama City Division (NSWC PCD) represents one of only a few sites in the U.S. that can satisfy all of the requirements for a standardized underwater UXO test bed. The primary technology development will codify procedures for establishing and maintaining a test bed in the shallow surf zone (< 5 m water depth) on the shore side of Shell Island, which is geographically local to NSWC PCD. The research team will determine local clutter densities, map environmental characteristics, and establish environmental monitoring and modeling in support of future test bed use. A test bed set-up process will be developed that provides target and environmental ground truth without interfering with potential sensor operation. In particular, the use of tethering lines as a tool to maintain target ground truth will be evaluated both as sources of entanglement for near shore sensor platforms as well as unintended cues exploitable by sensors. The precise location of the test bed (expected to be on the order of the size of a football field) will be determined by performing surveys using both underwater and airborne mapping assets while collecting in situ environmental observations. Observations will be coupled with detailed environmental modeling to make the final location determination. Standard operating procedures need to be established and tested for the emplacement and maintenance of targets. The test bed set-up process to be performed by divers will be developed at a surrogate site where various target deployment methods will be tested and refined for effectiveness and efficiency, and then demonstrated at the Shell Island test bed site.
A standardized underwater test bed provides a unique benefit to Department of Defense by enabling ESTCP to qualify and quantify the effectiveness of technologies developed for detection and classification of UXO. Test bed demonstrations are critical to obtain support from operational customers and other stakeholders for future technology transition.