Tuesday, March 31, 2015

DARPA seeks sensors for sub hunter

Michael Peck, C4ISR
30 March 2015

DARPA needs sensors for its anti-submarine drones to prowl the seas without bumping into other ships.

The research agency has put out a request for information to assist its Anti-Submarine Warfare Continuous Trail Unmanned Vessel (ACTUV) project for robotic, sub-hunting surface vessels. DARPA is focusing on the need to comply with International Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea, or COLREGS.
"Currently, ACTUV's system for sensing other vessels is based on radar, which provides a '90 percent solution' for detecting other ships," said a DARPA news release. "However, radar is less suitable for classification of the type of other vessels, for example determining whether the vessel is a powered vessel or a sailboat. Additionally, one of the requirements of COLREGS is to maintain ' proper lookout by sight and hearing.'
DARPA wants sensors as well as image-processing hardware and software that uses passive methods such as electro-optical, or non-radar active sensors such as LIDAR. "The goal is to develop reliable, robust onboard systems that could detect and track nearby surface vessels and potential navigation hazards, classify those objects' characteristics and provide input to ACTUV's autonomy software to facilitate correct COLREGs behaviors," DARPA said.

DARPA is focusing on three areas:

"Maritime perception sensors, including "passive and active imagers in the visible and infrared wavelengths and Class 1 Laser Rangefinder and Flash LIDAR to image ships during day or night in the widest variety of environmental conditions, including haze, fog and rain, over ranges from 4 kilometers to 15 kilometers."
Maritime perception software that can detect and classify ships using non-radar sensors.
Classification software that can identify shapes during daytime and by a ship's navigation lights.
"We're looking for test-ready, multi-sensor approaches that push the boundaries of today's automated sensing systems for unmanned surface vessels," said DARPA program manager Scott Littlefield. "Enhancing the ability of these kinds of vessels to sense their environment in all weather and traffic conditions, day or night, would significantly advance our ability to conduct a range of military missions."

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