Autonomous underwater vehicles for port protection
NATO's present capability to deal with a terrorist threat to our ports is slow, dangerous, and inefficient. Ports are a challenging area within which to conduct MCM operations due to several factors: shipping movements, very shallow water, turbidity, confined space, mine burial due to muddy/silty conditions, and high clutter density. The shortfall in NATO's ability to deal with this problem has been recognised by NATO Strategic Commanders who gave the highest priority to MCM for Force Protection and Counter-Terrorism. Recent progress in underwater robotics has been aimed at developing small, rapidly deployable Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) to achieve a large spatial sampling for both acoustic and non-acoustic measurements. The vehicles that are now commercially available, have great potential to work in conjunction with existing MCM assets and have several advantages: significantly faster search rate, reduced danger to divers, rapid deployability, and ability to carry out surveys in confined areas. The NATO Undersea Research Centre studies the performance of AUVs equipped with COTS sensors and working in conjunction with conventional assets (Mine Hunters and divers) to carry out MCM operations in ports and port approaches. To measure the effectiveness of this new technology in comparison to current practice, several experiments have been conducted in the ports of La Spezia (Italy), Strenraer (Scotland), Rotterdam (Netherlands) and Olpenitz (Germany). The paper summarizes the results and discusses the lessons learnt from the trials.
SourceIn: New Concepts for Harbour Protection, Littoral Security and Shallow-Water Acoustic Communication. International conference, Istanbul, Turkey 4-8 July 2005.