The Office of Naval Research is pioneering a new method of detecting buried or submerged mines, using unmanned aerial systems (UAS) and android devices. During a recent demonstration at Camp Pendleton Marine Corps Base, Calif., ONR engineers pointed to images of clusters on an android screen that represented dummy mines they had buried. A drone (UAS) detected and localized the dummy mines quickly and accurately.
The Mine Warfare Rapid Assessment Capability (MIW RAC) system employs a one-pound quad-rotor drone, carrying a payload that includes a magnetometer sensor. It is capable of delivering real-time information to the android’s operator.
The drone itself is available commercially, but the payload package is proprietary. The program began two years ago, when the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command (NECC) asked ONR to provide a portable system capable of detecting potentially hazardous devices and materials. The office, in turn, handed the project over to its TechSolutions program. Whatever ONR came up with had to be portable and easy to use.
The MIW RAC system is patterned after comparable systems developed commercially by two companies – BDS and Physical Sciences Inc. Their devices are stationary, and capable of detecting moving targets.
“We flipped that concept on its head. Instead of a stationary system detecting moving objects, we have a moving system detecting relatively stationary objects,” said Dr. Rosemary Oelrich, a scientist at Naval Surface Warfare Center Carderock’s Combat Craft Division.
TechSolutions intends to deliver prototype MIW RACs to NECC later this year for more tests and evaluations. The system could reach the fleet sometime next year.
“This technology will help sailors and Marines who are approaching a beachfront to rapidly clear, or at least determine the location of, mines or other hazards that are in their way. It could potentially save a lot of lives,” said ONR Command Master Chief Matt Matteson.