The Department of Defense (DoD) requires technology to address munitions contamination on active and former military training facilities, both marine and land-based. Marine environments, in particular, pose a significant challenge for the efficient and reliable characterization of unexploded ordnance (UXO) over wide areas. Deployment of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) at a wide range of sites can improve the spatial definition of UXO contamination of marine military sites. AUVs are a configurable mapping technology able to deploy an array of geophysical sensors at a wide range of marine environments for missions lasting more than 25 consecutive submerged hours, covering hundreds of acres per survey day, at minimal unit cost. The AUV-based geophysical mapping technology to be developed will exploit mature AUV technologies, related sea-mine detection capabilities, and land-based geophysical systems. Cost-effective marine-based wide area assessment methodology also will be developed.

Based on existing AUV platforms, this project will develop flexible marine surveying capabilities for wide- area screening of UXO under various marine conditions. Additionally, AUV technology will be extended for full-coverage geophysical mapping in marine environments for individual UXO detection.

Technical Approach

This project will overcome limitations of existing marine surveying systems by integrating land-based UXO geophysical surveying technologies with mature AUV systems. Leveraging these technologies will facilitate development of AUV-based UXO mapping capabilities for underwater environments. Commercial off-the-shelfAUV systems provide deep survey capabilities, long duration operation, robust positioning systems, and simplified launch procedures. Bluefin’s AUVs used for mine countermeasures applications can be augmented to deploy magnetometers and/or electromagnetic induction (EMI) sensors for UXO detection. Proof-of-concept development of an AUV mapping system will proceed in three stages: (1) a comprehensive engineering analysis, (2) design and laboratory testing of the AUV system, and (3) testing of a functional AUV-based UXO mapping technology in a controlled environment.


This project has the potential to establish viable AUV-based marine UXO mapping with efficiency and accuracy dramatically greater than that presently available. Potential advantages compared to surface systems include low-altitude, terrain-following operations to maximize detection; AUV positioning with 1-m accuracy or better and 2-km survey range; sensor deployment independent of surface wave action; long duration missions (greater than 25 hours); increased survey productivity rates at reduced costs; integration of additional sensors (side scan sonar) with magnetometers and EMI sensors; and full grids or transects for wide area assessment.