Advances in electromagnetic induction (EMI) sensors, deployment strategies, and data analyses have combined to provide landmark improvements with regard to classifying buried objects as targets of interest (i.e., unexploded ordnance [UXO]) or not in the terrestrial realm. At a recent technology demonstration upwards of 50% of the non-targets of interest were confidently and correctly identified without a single false negative. Analogous systems do not exist, however, for marine environments, even though the cost to remediate--and therefore the need to discriminate--is greater.

The objective of this SERDP Exploratory Development (SEED) project is to assess the likelihood that existing autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) could be combined with next-generation, broadband, multi-coil EMI sensors to create an underwater classification system that performs comparably with state-of-the-art terrestrial systems.

Technical Approach

Non-trivial technological advances have been independently realized in the areas of AUVs, electromagnetic (EM) sensors, UXO data analysis, and data collection schemes. With regard to the sensing system (sensor, analysis, and collection scheme), multiple system designs and solutions have been shown to possess remarkable classification capabilities. With regard to vehicles suitable for marine environments, modern day AUVs possess widely ranging capabilities in mission objectives, onboard power, payload, and maneuverability. Whether existing AUVs or remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) can be adopted or adapted for use in towing a classification grade EMI sensor is unknown.

 This project's approach to UXO classification in marine environments is to combine breakthrough advances in terrestrial EMI classification systems (hardware and software) that have recently realized landmark classification results with an appropriately selected state-of-the-art AUV or ROV. The concept of operations for the underwater classification system is, simply, a broadband, multi-coil EMI system that interrogates anomalies one at a time using a cued target list (e.g., target locations generated by a prior reconnaissance survey) and is self-propelled from one anomaly location to another using a highly mobile AUV or ROV.

During this SEED effort, researchers will conduct a thorough assessment of Department of Defense (DoD) and commercial AUV platforms. In addition to systematically characterizing the performance capabilities of the AUVs for the intended cued purpose, DoD and commercial expertise and knowledge of EMI issues and solutions associated with AUVs will be canvased, the EMI signatures of a down-selected number of AUVs characterized, and EMI sensor design options assessed given the realities imposed by the tow vehicle. These results will be used to develop and screen conceptual designs leading to a preferred design that would be further explored as an independent design/build project.


Once realized, underwater UXO classification systems will fundamentally change the prevalent concept of operations, which for marine sites is prohibitively expensive, 100% removal actions, to actionable efforts based on proven, quantitative, and transparent polarizability-based discrimination decisions. (Anticipated SEED Project Completion - 2011)