Unmanned Underwater Vehicles and port safety

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*Article courtesy Israel Homeland Security

drugs times; font-size: 16px;”>Bios Swimmer is an unmanned vehicle that can operate underwater as well as on the surface, stuff designated to follow incoming vessels and monitor possible introduction of explosives attached to their hull. Scientists in Hawaii developed another unmanned marine vehicle designed to secure civil and naval ports, including immediate alert, monitoring and reporting of unusual events, full port observation and monitoring of infrastructure at wharves as well as other installations.

These are two of the examples scientist, marine researcher and scientific diver Marianne Molchan cites in the course of a lengthy article in GSN on special Autonomous Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUV) for port safeguarding and monitoring civil and naval ports that apply advanced technologies and achieve enormous savings in personnel and costs.

The US appears to have at its disposal hundreds of UUVs that carry out underwater hydrography and monitor and watch for marine obstacles, hazardous materials and unexploded ordnances. Over the past decade, security and HLS officials worldwide have begun using UUVs as well as surface unmanned vehicles fitted with sensors for port safety and security, in particular monitoring port entry and departure points, following mounting concerns of hostile activities.

The US Navy has a master plan for port safety and security that can be easily adapted for monitoring and security projects of civil ports. There are currently six major themes that can be addressed by unmanned vehicles:

  • Reconnaissance and data gathering
  • Safeguard underwater transmission mediums
  • Monitoring underwater port infrastructures
  • Assistance in sustaining safe and quality navigation within the port
  • Mine detection at the port seafloor
  • Maintenance works

There is a growing number of unmanned vehicles capable of carrying out preprogrammed activities or operator-controlled activities. One of them is the Bios Swimmer developed by Boston Engineering Corporation. This is a highly rapid and lightweight UUV, which advances under water using propellers and a tail, akin to a large fish. The Bios Swimmer’s primary mission is to trace explosives and monitor them, in case they may have been attached to vessels, as well foil various underwater hazards and oversee maintenance.

Various Armies, as well as scientific, oil and gas industries have already adopted the use of UUVs for various purposes. For instance, the port of Um Qasr, Iraq, was cleared of mines in 2003 in record time during Operation Iraqi Freedom using UUVs.

There are many civil uses for UUVs, especially in light of the growing congestion of major seaports worldwide. As ships get larger, maneuverability within a port is tighter. Autonomous UUVs can assist in navigation and additional tasks such as:

  • Intelligence gathering and reconnaissance for law enforcement agencies, safety and security forces and HLS mission.
  • The combination of sonar, man-machine interface and the relatively low cost of UUVs makes it easier for port authorities to deploy vehicles in order to trace various seabed obstacles, debris or explosives.
  • UUVs are currently fitted with sophisticated payloads, including sensors, sonar and cameras, whose combination promotes rapid, immediate and real-time technological alert activity.
  • The sensors are capable of tracing underwater hazards and detecting them, thereby enabling port security authorities and law enforcement agencies to respond to events properly and ahead of time.
  • One additional major point: UUVs are already in the hands of adversaries of the US. There is evidence that the development of multi-UUVs swarm strike doctrines is underway. US army specialists believe it is only a matter of time before someone initiates such an attack against a US objective.

Hat Tip: Please visit their informative site: iHLSIsrael Homeland Security

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