U.S. Navy: New Underwater Detection System assists in salvage operations in Halifax

U.S. Navy sends new
underwater detection system
to Halifax

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New equipment, such as this synthetic aperture sonar developed by the Navy's Coastal Systems Station, will be used to search for wreckage at the site of the Swissair Flight 111 crash in Nova Scotia. Hi-Rez. (U.S. Navy file photo)
Peggy's Cove, Nova Scotia, Sept. 11 The United States Navy is providing recently-developed underwater detection equipment to Canadian authorities to assist in the search and recovery operations of Swissair Flight 111 near Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada.

The equipment is the Synthetic Aperture Sonar and the Laser Electro-Optics Identification System, both of which provide detailed images of the ocean floor and will be used to map the debris field. These systems are part of an equipment suite the U.S. Navy's Coastal Systems Station, Panama City, Fla., has developed to hunt underwater mines.

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The laser line scan illuminates an object to create an image the same way a camera uses a flash. Hi-Rez. (U.S. Navy file photo)
The suite of underwater sensors is the Mobile Underwater Debris Survey System (MUDSS) and is designed to hunt mines and other underwater debris. It produces images of higher resolution than previous systems and allows searchers to find, identify and locate items on the ocean floor.

According Program Project Officer Cmdr. Spence Whitten, Office of Naval Research in Washington D.C., "This is the latest technology in electro-optics laser systems. In fact, the system is still in the research and development phase. The system should provide searchers with the best resolution available today in locating underwater objects."

picture, caption follows The two sensing devices, the synthetic aperture sonar and the laser line scan sonar, are placed in an underwater vehicle resembling a torpedo and towed behind a ship over the search area. The submersible has wings by which its attitude and the depth of its search run are controlled. Information recorded by the sensors is transmitted to the surface where it is fed into a computer, producing a detailed image almost immediately. The submersible will be towed behind the Canadian Coast Guard fisheries research vessel Hudson.
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The Canadian Coast Guard fisheries research vessel Hudson will tow the underwater imaging sensor in a torpedo-like vehicle, mapping the debris field of the Swissair Flight 111 crash site. (Canadian Navy photo)
The synthetic aperture sonar is a dual frequency model. The high frequency mode can distinguish between a barrel and an automobile tire. The low frequency mode allows the sonar to detech object just beneath the surface of the ocean floor.

The laser line scan sonar uses a laser to illuminate the target and "take a picture" in the same way that a camera uses a flash. Its narrow beam allows images to be acquired a distances three to four times that possible with conventional imaging systems.

Cmdr. Whitten and 16 scientists and engineers from the Navy's Coastal Systems Station will be accompanying and operating the equipment when it arrives in Canada. The system consists of more than 54,000 lbs. of gear and requires two U.S. Air Force C-17s to carry it and its accompanying personnel to Halifax.


Reviewed: 16 September 2009