Offshore Persistent Monitoring

This week, in one of the numerous Twitter feeds I follow was a story about Ocean power Technologies, a company in the USA, deploying  an Autonomous Power Buoy with US Coastguard support.

The buoy was deployed 35 miles off the coast and in 43m of water.

OPT LEAP PowerBuoy
OPT LEAP PowerBuoy

One of the problems with powered buoys, for those with payloads that need energy of course, is the means to generate that power. Those sufficiently close inshore can be powered by underwater cables with battery or small generators for backup. For lower power application solar panels are now well established in the market, the UK manufacturer Hydrosphere has an interesting web site with lots of information

[browser-shot width=”600″ url=”http://www.hydrosphere.co.uk/”]

The largest data buoy, the 2 tonnes 3m DB 8000 in the Hydrosphere range has enough solar panels to supply 400W of peak power, similar to the Ocean Technologies system.

The US research is aimed at harnessing wave energy to eliminate the need for umbilical’s and costly to maintain batteries and generators whilst providing an alternative power source to solar panels that provides more space ‘topside’ for sensors.

Both wave and solar still need batteries and a power management system to ensure power is available when it is needed, rather than when it can be provided by either waves or the sun.

The buoy itself was an APB-350 Autonomous PowerBuoy which uses the same technology as the much larger Mk 3 and Mk 4 utility scale Power Buoys capable of generating power for export to the shore.

It might not surprise but one of the sponsors for this research programme is the Department of Homeland Security (Operative Research and Development Agreement ) with previous research funding supplied by the US Navy.

The previous research programme from the US Navy was equally interesting and the results showed greater than expected power generation and prolonged survivability in the highest sea states, including a full on encounter with Hurricane Irene.

This technology has two broad uses applications, self sufficiency and power generation. Scaling up produces a renewable energy wave energy harvesting system that is understandably getting most attention including trials off Scotland with a 150kw model and plans for the Cornwall Wave Hub

The US Navy has an interest in this technology for their Total Ocean Monitoring Enterprise programme, linking in with the deployable system mentioned above.

[scribd id=164688160 key=key-93igymtii20zrmmh5xo mode=scroll]

The simple idea is to use self sufficient buoys for detection of threats and provision of early warning using a string of buoys as a tripwire at a distance from areas that need protection, chokepoints, base areas, approach lanes etc.

RF Tripwire
RF Tripwire

Communicating via iridium satellite or 3G/4G mobile technology at for point to point communicating mesh networks the buoys can contain a number of sensors. All the usual suspects of ELINT, electro optical and sonar could be used but the main thrust of research has been to integrate transponder detection (AIS) with low power HF Radar, correlating the two together and with other sources to allow total surface situational awareness.

HF Radar is traditionally used for surface current and wave height monitoring, ice berg tracking and oil spill detection.

CODAR and Rutgers University are engaged with the research to use their radar systems for ship detection, identification and tracking. Trials are also underway using bistatic and multistatic sensors, separating the transmitter and receiver.

[browser-shot width=”600″ url=”http://www.codar.com/”]

The MoD currently has 220 aids to navigation and 110 heavy moorings that are maintained by Briggs Marine under a 15 year agreement contracted through Serco.

There are some interesting possibilities with this kind of system, persistent term monitoring and surveillance on a semi permanent basis is the obvious one, the Falkland Islands, mainland UK, Cyprus and of course Gibraltar. :)

As a deployable system, park one a handful of these offshore, mesh network them together and add in a combination of ELINT, AIS, HF Radar, acoustic and other sensors and you can monitor choke points, pirate activity and coastal shipping movements.

The US TOME project seems to characterise the potential very well in calling it an RF Tripswire.

Best thing about the Ocean Power Technology buoy, it fits into a 40ft ISO container, back of the bloody net!

OPT Autonomous Power Buoy
OPT Autonomous Power Buoy

 

Read more;

http://www.helzel.com/files/432/upload/Pressreleases/WERA_EJN_3-09-2.pdf 

http://codar.com/images/about/2011Roarty_MarineTech.pdf 

http://www.stevens.edu/csr/fileadmin/csr/Annual_Report/CSR_YEAR2_AnnualReport_Final.pdf 

http://www.stevens.edu/csr/fileadmin/csr/Annual_Report/CSR_Year3_AnnualReport.pdf 

33 Comments
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HurstLlama
HurstLlama
September 1, 2013 7:57 pm

All very nice but can these things support sonar arrays that can detect modern SSKs at reasonable distance? If not who cares, the surface/air threat is already sewn up n different ways.

mike
mike
September 1, 2013 8:00 pm

I wonder, perhaps a submersible/sea floor based version could replace the aging SOSUS line?

Or it is perhaps a cheaper version of that… certainly something that could help plug gaps/enhance capability… though the issue I feel is that with buoys, anyone can rock up and fool around with them.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
September 1, 2013 10:33 pm

@Mike – fit a claymore mine booby trap that will activate if anybody tampers without turning off the burglar alarm…they won’t do it twice…

Could be hard lines on stray yachtsmen though…

A slightly malevolent Gloomy

Observer
Observer
September 2, 2013 6:41 am

And even harder on the guy sent to do maintenance on that thing. :) Every buoy maintained is essentially disarming a bomb beforehand.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
September 2, 2013 8:22 am

@Observer – I did suggest wiring it to the burglar alarm…he’ll have a four digit code (typically the Security Manager’s Wife’s Birthday in my experience).

GNB

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
September 2, 2013 11:47 am

@TD – the voice of reason as usual…no claymore mines then?

A contrite Gloomy

Lindermyer
Lindermyer
September 2, 2013 11:56 am

@ Gloomy
I cant remember my wife’s birthday now you want to add a claymore to a strangers??.
I’ve a better Idea a simple yes no question which emails each and every answer to the UN ( and EU) as part of a poll.

For Use off Gibraltar Q Do you believe Gibraltar should be returned to Spain Y/N
For Use of those Islands Q Do you believe FI should be handed over to Argentina Y/N

Observer
Observer
September 2, 2013 12:43 pm

Headline News

“A Navy Engineer was killed yesterday while doing maintenance work on sonobuoys, investigation later revealed that he had entered his mistress’s birthday by accident when the passcode was his wife’s birthday. The Navy has issues a warning to all maintenance personnel to take care in keeping the two seperate.”

Chris
Chris
September 2, 2013 1:02 pm

Must admit, when it comes to long term monitoring, I thought this: http://www.webbresearch.com/pdf/Slocum_Glider_Data_Sheet.pdf offered some real advantage. At the moment these are all envionmental monitors that follow preloaded GPS routes (the route checking and next-leg vector being determined as the thing breaks the surface) but it seems to me the same technology glider could be given passive sonar capability (no propeller and it goes slow so very quiet) and set patrolling whatever choke-point you desire. If they could up the speed to 5kt it could tail subs virtually silently, popping to the surface every now & then to ping a satcom ‘I’m here now’ marker.

Lindermyer
Lindermyer
September 2, 2013 2:06 pm

@ Observer
A toast to wives and girlfriends (and may they never meet)

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
September 2, 2013 3:49 pm

You lot are as bad as I am – the Boss will put us all in detention if we don’t behave ourselves!

GNB

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
September 2, 2013 6:40 pm

Chris,

I know nothing at all about how submarines are tracked, but I’ve always thought that if you could find one, it shouldn’t be beyond the wit of man to somehow get some form of UUV / torpedo like thing to latch onto it – air suction? – then pop up a little balloon with a transponder on a 1000 metre long wire. Programme it to release when the sub comes to the surface and move off 300 yards and dive a bit so that the sub crew can’t get hold of it.

Alternatively, if you can find a sub, somehow drape a long wire in front of the conning tower, with little balloons and transponders at either end.

Maybe my sense of underwater engineering is not developed enough to know if that’s a real difficulty, been tried before and useless, or just a completely stupid idea. And it all relies on “first find your submarine”.

GNB, do not click on the “Cougar Pictures” thread. There are no cougars in there. I know, I’ve checked (and I don’t mean the American mountain lion type of cougar, I mean the more interesting sort of American cougar).

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
September 2, 2013 6:55 pm

@RT – lots of lovely big ships though; saw a cougar once in Northern Wyoming…met one as well, but that’s a very different story…

GNB

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
September 2, 2013 7:06 pm

GNB,

I had thought for a moment that TD had decided to sex up the blog……. but if he did, it would be a picture of a metal box ;)

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
September 2, 2013 7:26 pm

@RT – I do hope Mrs RT and the Trouserettes don’t get hold of your computer, or you will be Magenta Trousers..!

Chris
Chris
September 2, 2013 7:48 pm

RT – very amused by the concept of a weapon system designed to find and catch big black menacing hostile enemy submarines with the sole aim of giving it a snog. I thought you were going to suggest it anchored a particularly nasty depth charge/other warhead onto the casing… But no. Party balloons it is then!

I can’t wait to hear what you intend to do with jelly and orange squash…

As for difficulty of finding other submarines, I was told a tale – true I was assured – of an RN sub that had detected a Soviet SSN (quite noisy they were, apparently) on its way home to Polyarny or somewhere like. They started to follow at a discrete distance – fortunate – when they detected another sub between them, this one much quieter. I think it was characterised as a US sub (memory fades). they dropped back a little and followed. Then they got the faintest hint of a third sub, following the US one which was following the Soviet one, and this was determined to be one of the German built diesel-electrics (209/212/214 I can’t remember) and for reasons I don’t think I was told about, it was determined to be an export model sold to a warm and very distant land. Quite what it was doing following Ivan’s Podvodnaya up the coast of Norway remained a mystery. But it sort of shows that even with all the technology in modern boats, detecting a well operated opponent is really tricky.

In fact one of the theories about the sinking of the Kursk was that there was a slight ding under water between Kursk (big fat Oscar class SSGN) and USS Memphis (gucci US SSN); originally there were claims of unprovoked torpedo use which were almost certainly complete bluster and fabrication, but later the theory seeped forth that maybe in close quarter shadowing ops the US boat didn’t turn away fast enough to avoid a polite knock – nothing serious except for the fact that the impact knocked one of Kursk’s ageing torpedoes off its rack, which split its fuel lines and it became a lethal time-bomb inside its own boat. Again – never been there or done that, but I’m told these polite bumps between submerged boats are much more common than us landlubbers would expect. Whatever. Apparently Memphis spent a day or two in Norway shortly afterwards getting the naval equivalent of Plastic-Padding put into some dents on its nose. All of the above of course being from web-tales of no pedigree whatsoever, but it sounds quite a plausible minor maritime accident albeit with horrendous unforeseeable consequences.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
September 2, 2013 8:12 pm

GNB,

I can’t think what you are referring to. I click on a Defence blogpost (hardly a crime, and the Army pension pays for some (not much :( ) of the school fees, so I’m on safe ground there. Then to my delight the said defence blog offers pictures of my favourite large cats (Spaniards don’t understand the American Urban dictionary) – a perfectly innocent explanation, even if Mrs RT seems to have completely missed out on my until now discreet obsession with the Felidae family of Carnivora, but to my great disappointment it’s a post full of pictures of floaty little boats. And I comment on a completely unrelated thread. All perfectly explicable, M’Lud…..

(although TBH Mrs RT doesn’t bother with legal, she just goes straight for the jugular when I transgress)

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
September 2, 2013 8:30 pm

@RT – You’ll be fine until the trouserettes are old enough to grass you up…the cougar was astonishing…lithe, sleek and athletic with a very fine set of teeth…disappeared into the woods like lighting as the greyhound bus pulled into a roadside diner just as the sun came up…

GNB

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
September 2, 2013 8:40 pm

I have insulated myself against being grassed up by being the sole signatory to their ISA thingies that are going to pay for their university fees. And with the eldest, there’s currently the teenage hormone thing going on which means she hates her mother (even to the extent of deliberately replying in English which drives Mrs RT up the wall). I don’t get involved, just sit there all indulgent.

“…the cougar was astonishing…lithe, sleek and athletic with a very fine set of teeth…disappeared into the woods like lighting…”

Sounds like my sort of girl. You can get up to all sorts of nonsense in the woods. And she still had all of her own teeth? Bonus.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
September 2, 2013 8:49 pm

That one’s worth a pint if TD ever forms a Dining Club…

GNB

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
September 2, 2013 9:36 pm

Chris,

i’ve not heard that submarine tale before, but my natural instinct is to assume that all navies tell something similar, merely changing about the order of the ships. God knows, it’s what the Army would do (I’m convinced that my troop completely foxed an East German border patrol during a three day patrol in the Harz, they probably went back to their barracks and said how they’d completely outwitted a British cavalry patrol….).

Here’s an interesting little clip: http://www.liveleak.com/view?i=26e_1316255990&comments=1 . Lord knows if the thing dragging the buoy was a submarine or some unfortunate porpoise. But it illustrates the concept.

I think “tagging” an OPFOR submarine would be quite good sport for an enterprising CO in the Andrew, and probably reveal much more about capabilities / intentions than merely blowing it up. If we (well, the Septics) can put men on the moon, surely there must be some way to develop some form of capability to quietly lasso a sub with 1000 metres of trailing wire and a balloon / transponder / radar reflector? And having done that, some form of auto-wire cutter to get rid of the evidence when it got back to 20 miles of its’ base, so they didn’t know it had happened?

How would a submarine know if it had been tagged, if you can do the job without horrendous metallic clanging? They don’t have windows.

Chris
Chris
September 2, 2013 11:36 pm

RT – all supposition of course, but I’d guess that a long trailing wire might sing a bit as it flailed through the water? Especially if there’s a buoy splashing along the surface at the end of it. You have to bear in mind that these submariners live in an acoustic world – their boats are festooned with acoustic sensors both active and passive, capable of detecting deliberately quiet opposition boats at distance – a flailing wire right behind the sub with a splashy radio buoy on the end must be a doddle to pick up.

I’d also expect the boat to be inspected on arrival at home – especially the bit above water – which would find any anchors or wire snares still in place. But never having been there myself I may be wrong.

The reason I really quite like the Glider concept is that it has no ‘propulsion’ as such – it just alternates its buoyancy so it goes up & down, then by use of its ‘wings’ creates a shallow glidepath to fly – it really couldn’t be quieter. It would be interesting to see if one could be built with a decent payload and hydro-dynamically clean to keep radiated noise to an absolute minimum.

On the subject of hydrodynamics and shapes, as an engineer I am interested to know if the Soviet Alfa class was as slippery and quiet a shape as it looked – its a very cool looking little thing, although it had three major drawbacks – No.1 the pressure hull is/was titanium not steel; that’s an awful lot of rare metal required to make a whole sub – No.2 the machinery (coolant pumps on the reactor) was supposed to be very noisy so that counters any advantage from the swoopy shape – No.3 its reactors were not very well shielded; actually that’s an understatement, radioactivity levels in the breathing air were so bad the thing was reported to need to surface at hour intervals to pump all the contaminated air out and get fresh in. The crews weren’t too healthy because of it either. Minor problems. Of course as ever this is all as reported in public source material no doubt issued by western sources – which might all have been propaganda, the reality being it was a brilliant, silent and thoroughly safe fighting boat. Possibly. Unlikely.

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
September 3, 2013 12:17 am

Chris, I always tend to over-complicate things (especially things I don’t know anything about), so you may well be right on the singing wires. And there’s me having just invented in my head a fiendishly simple and deceptive system for stringing out long trailing wires at 10m depth intervals using oil barrels half filled with concrete to be pre-emplaced at submarine choke points to very subtly ensnare passing Ivan submarines.

(I know what I’m good at, which is radios, self-healing meshing networks, and managing data broadcast while not being obvious. Beautifully simple, no need for complexity)

I shall have to go to bed and count cougars jumping over sheep or something (or eating them). Mrs RT and the delightful little darlings are away with friends, so at least I won’t be woken up by an eight year old jumping onto my chest with both knees leading. I still have the cat to manage though, which is worrying as she hates me and I haven’t seen her for nearly 3 days and I will be in the most enormous trouble if it turns out something terminal has happened on my watch. The food keeps disappearing, but no sign at all of moggie.

Observer
Observer
September 3, 2013 12:28 am

Well… submarine nets are still commonly used, but that presupposes an area which a sub has to go through to do nasty things. Why worry about noisemaking and marking when you can tangle him up so badly he needs to call for a tow?

TD, careful, that little moggie is obviously planning a night assault on your person while you slumber, oblivious to the coming danger! All cats think they are cougars. :)

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
September 3, 2013 12:41 am

Observer,

I think the cat is of little consequence, apart from to marriage, and life itself. Mrs RT has my dog which is probably having a whale of a time (what, for a dog, is not to like about camping? She’ll be eating carelessly dropped sausages from the barbecue, and will return a house dog and not a gundog), I have her cat. But the cat completely pales into insignificance in comparison with one of the little darlings – or me – inadvertently waking up Mrs RT. She stopped doing the caring mother middle-of-the-night routine several years ago. Honestly, I swear her eyes open up luminous red if you inadvertently disturb her sleep, and I suspect that in her bedside drawer is a stiletto which she could grab and put up to your neck in a nano-second while still technically being asleep. Honestly, it’s like sleeping next to a minefield. The children and I are terrified.

Observer
Observer
September 3, 2013 2:36 am

So, in short, it’s a hostage situation.

Save that your hostage has gone missing and her hostage has a chance of getting a case of Stockholm Syndrome.

Run.

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
September 3, 2013 1:40 pm

…and hide!

Red Trousers
Red Trousers
September 3, 2013 10:58 pm

Moggie returned!!!! Hissed at me as she came through the cat flap cut into the study door into the garden, and stalked off into the interior. No bloody explanation at all for the nearly 4 days of absence.

Thinking of locking the little bitch up until Thursday night, when the family come home.

No longer in the dog-house, assuming the cat hasn’t spent the last 4 days in English elocution lessons and now has the ability to rat on me.

Observer & GNB. I don’t do the running and hiding thing. I don’t have the genes for it. And apart from about 17,000 practical reasons why I am regarded as a cash cow by everyone (and animal) that lives in my house, I’m still master of it (I think). They still allow me to sit at the head of the table and to dress up as Father Christmas to dole out the pressies once a year (I think my teenager has me rumbled on that score). ;)

Opinion3
Opinion3
September 4, 2013 7:12 am

@RT

Could the poor moggie be scared of those huge shiney black hobnails and the bright red trousers?

dave haine
dave haine
September 4, 2013 8:51 am

how interesting…bouys then cats…

@RT- single filiment carbon fibre (eg graphite) or indeed silicon,

But look at it a different way…quick easy way to disable a sub…knacker its sensor array…all you need is two Raspberry Pi’s in a pressure and waterproof box either end of the filiment, emitting a beep at illogical intervals and volumes, and on all frequencies…it’d drive the acoustic operators mad…so they’d have to either surface to try and resolve the issue or f**k off home.

It could work on cats too i suppose…not sure about mem sa’abs tho…

dave haine
dave haine
September 4, 2013 8:58 am

another thought…imagine a net of these bouys deployed around a battle group when stationary, maybe even self-mobile configured to move when the battle group does…floating UV’s basically…you could even hang a torpedo/ depth charge off them…configured to release when certain detection parameters are reached…the bang would at least be a warning…

still wouldn’t work on the wife tho…

Gloomy Northern Boy
Gloomy Northern Boy
September 4, 2013 9:30 am

@RT – I thought running and hiding were important Light Cavalry skills?

@Opinion 3 – no hobnails; spurs though; and trousers a deep cherry red I think; like those corduroys that posh chaps wear on Saturday (I bet our friend favours those as well)…

GNB