Mine Warfare Rapid Assessment Capability system on a drone (ONR/YouTube)

Navy demos drone-based mine detection

Researchers at the Naval Surface Warfare Center (NSWC) are using drones to detect buried and submerged mines.

The Mine Warfare Rapid Assessment Capability system consists of a one-pound quadcopter carrying with an ultra-sensitive magnetometer that detects mines and provides real-time search data to a handheld Android tablet. MIW RAC is designed to help explosive ordnance disposal teams quickly find mines and metal obstacles in coastal surf zones and shallow-water zones, providing a real-time aerial complement to existing underwater mine-detection capabilities, ONR officials said in the system’s announcement.

While the quadcopter and tablet are available commercially, the heart of the system is the proprietary magnetometer sensor suite, which uses complex algorithms to differentiate between various types of objects.

MIW RAC came out of ONR’s TechSolutions program that rapidly develops prototype technologies to address problems voiced by sailors and marines. In 2015, the Navy Expeditionary Combat Command asked for a portable system that could detect potential hazards in surf zones that was easy for warfighters to use and fit diverse platforms.

With TechSolutions guidance, NECC partnered with NSWC and two commercial companies -- BDS and Physical Sciences Inc. -- to develop the components of MIW RAC.

“We took our inspiration from a stationary scanning system developed by BDS,” NSWC scientist Rosemarie Oelrich said. “It was sensitive enough to not only detect weapons, but identify the hidden location of the object on a person and the angle in which it was oriented -- a knife in a front pocket or gun turned sideways, for example.

“We flipped that concept on its head,” she continued. “Instead of a stationary system detecting moving objects, we have a moving system detecting relatively stationary objects.”

“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,” said Office of Naval Research Command Master Chief Matt Matteson. “It could potentially save a lot of lives.”

TechSolutions will deliver prototype MIW RACs to NECC’s Explosive Ordnance Disposal Group later this year for further testing and evaluation.

About the Author

Susan Miller is executive editor at GCN.

Over a career spent in tech media, Miller has worked in editorial, print production and online, starting on the copy desk at IDG’s ComputerWorld, moving to print production for Federal Computer Week and later helping launch websites and email newsletter delivery for FCW. After a turn at Virginia’s Center for Innovative Technology, where she worked to promote technology-based economic development, she rejoined what was to become 1105 Media in 2004, eventually managing content and production for all the company's government-focused websites. Miller shifted back to editorial in 2012, when she began working with GCN.

Miller has a BA from West Chester University and an MA in English from the University of Delaware.

Connect with Susan at smiller@gcn.com or @sjaymiller.

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