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Waterborne Surveillance For Enhanced Harbor Security

By Nathan Whittenton • Rich Granger • Craig Walker

Illustration of WaSPNet concept, linking a mobile swarm of sensors with undersea, fixed assets.

In a world where threats from terrorists and international drug cartels are all too real, the U.S. must contend with the vulnerability posed by thousands of ships traveling in and out of its ports. Although systems have been deployed to help address these security risks, critical challenges and potential vulnerabilities persist below the waterline.

Organizations responsible for maritime and port security routinely inspect the underwater hulls of ships. Objects of interest may include contraband, such as drugs, explosives or other parasitic attachments; small submersibles or semisubmersibles; and issues related to underhull maintenance. Both exercises and real-world events have shown the need for underhull inspection, but current techniques are so limited that only a small sample of the vessels that visit or transit U.S. waters are actually inspected.

Battelle (Columbus, Ohio) and the Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Newport, Rhode Island, developed an imaging system, called Harbor Shield, to capture high-resolution underhull images without requiring vessels to stop for inspection. Harbor Shield completed an extended in-water demonstration in 2011 that proved its ability to capture underhull images in an active channel. Meanwhile, NUWC Detachment San Diego, California, developed a preliminary design for a channel acoustic sensors measurement system (CASMS) that can enhance harbor security with an acoustic tripwire for low-observable, partially or fully submerged vessels, with a persistent feed to Sector Command Center-Joint (SCC-J) watchstanders via secret internet protocol router network (SIPRNet). Now, Battelle and NUWC, in conjunction with NUWC DET San Diego and L-3 PHOTONICS (Carlsbad, California), envision using marine sensing and networking technology to develop and demonstrate an integrated system that will provide more efficient and comprehensive harbor security.

A key challenge facing maritime security operations is the lack of real-time communications capability to provide operators and decision makers with real-time domain awareness and command and control. In addition, any single user or organization responsible for security may be challenged to marshal the proper resources to provide a complete security solution. The sensor and platform technologies required to obtain relevant and actionable information exist. The organization and transfer of the information is the technical solution that has yet to be realized, and connection is the focus problem.

L-3 PHOTONICS is developing the capability to link these many platforms, sensors and communication systems together in a cooperative manner in the waterborne surveillance and protection network (WaSPNet). WaSPNet's ultimate mission is to provide total maritime domain awareness for U.S. ports, harbors and waterways.

Ad Hoc Network Support for ISR
A swarm of autonomous and semiautonomous platforms [unmanned surface vehicles (USVs), UUVs and unmanned aerial systems (UASs)] communicate with each other and with other undersea or above-water fixed sensor systems. By working cooperatively, the systems can provide the information needed to protect critical infrastructure without impeding the normal flow of traffic, which is critical to adoption of any security procedure. The ultimate goal of this network is to operate seamlessly on, above and below the ocean's surface, relaying near real-time data and command and control capability to operators at a local ground station, and eventually to remote decision makers. L-3 PHOTONICS WaSPNet will provide a dynamically configurable ad hoc mesh network to support the complicated intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) mission represented in ports and harbors.

WaSPNet comprises a swarm of mobile and fixed network members. Each swarm member can operate as a node in the ad-hoc network. The nodes are then configured (both in their capabilities and in their physical location) as needed to respond to changes in the operating theater. Since the swarm is intended to work in a maritime environment, each swarm member was developed with the appropriate level of environmental protection.

At base, WaSPNet provides an extended local area network (LAN) or wide area network (WAN) capability via communications to the mobile swarm members. For this study, L-3 PHOTONICS implemented a gigabit Ethernet LAN to communicate with the various sensors, imagers and remotely piloted vehicles. The physical components of the LAN included wired and free space optical (FSO) communications links supporting the full 1 gigabit per second bandwidth, as well as radio frequency (RF) communications links with bandwidths to 20 megabits per second.

For a list of references, contact Richard Granger at grangerr@battelle.org.

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Nathan Whittenton is a business development manager for L-3 PHOTONICS.

Rich Granger is a program manager for Battelle's Maritime Systems business unit.

Craig Walker is a lead engineer for the Naval Undersea Warfare Center Detachment in San Diego, California.

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