UD's AUV ready for its next research
mission. Photo by Evan Krape
The University of Delaware and its partners Weston Solutions Inc. and Geometrics Inc. have received a $1 million grant to develop and demonstrate an innovative system for detecting underwater munitions and explosives. Funded by the Department of Defense Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP), the project will integrate UD’s autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) with instrumentation expected to facilitate munitions detection.
“This project brings the age of robotics into unexploded munitions detection to reduce the threats to humans and to make detection more efficient,” said Assistant Professor of Geological Science Art Trembanis. Trembanis operates UD’s AUV, a torpedo-like device that swims untethered through the water collecting data.
The AUV will be outfitted with a total field magnetometer, which locates iron-containing objects such as bombs, shells, and rockets. Such objects were used or discarded in coastal and ocean waters, swamps, rivers, and lakes around the world during military combat, training, and weapons testing activities.
Today those unexploded munitions, which may still detonate despite their age, pose a physical threat to everyone from contractors clearing underwater routes for telecommunications, to dredge operators, and fishermen bringing in their nets. The materials also threaten the environment as they deteriorate and leach toxic chemicals.
The novel new AUV magnetometer system also has broad application beyond the detection of unexploded munitions, as it can be used to locate other objects of interest such as oil and gas pipelines and archaeological artifacts. It also can be used to conduct basic geophysical surveys for geological applications.
Integrating the Geometrics magnetometer with the AUV is expected to provide cost savings over current approaches by requiring less manpower for operation and reducing or eliminating the need for support from a large ship. Other expected benefits include improved safety, portability, maneuverability, and the ability to operate multiple sensing systems simultaneously.
The integration of the magnetometer and AUV will be complemented with a unique noise compensation system to reduce or eliminate platform and electrical noise generated from the AUV’s propulsion system. The noise compensation will increase munitions detection capabilities without compromising data quality.
“We are honored to work with the ESTCP and our partners to develop this innovative technology that bridges the gap between academia and industry, while providing a sound sustainable solution to protect and improve the environment,” said Patrick G. McCann, president and chief executive officer of Weston. Weston is the project’s principal investigator and a specialist in the munitions industry.