Defense Funding Awarded to Four Scripps Oceanography Researchers


Four Scripps Institution of Oceanography at UC San Diego, researchers will receive Navy funding to acquire and deploy instruments in support of studies ranging from coastal oceanography to deep-ocean acoustics. The awards mark the continuation of a partnership between Scripps and the Navy that predates World War II.

The Department of Defense (DoD) awarded a total of $54.7 million to academic institutions for the purchase of state-of-the-art research equipment. The awards are made by the Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP) to improve current capabilities, or develop new capabilities, to perform cutting-edge national security research.

Scripps awards will total nearly $4.5 million for six research projects. They complement some $25 million that the Navy awarded Scripps for research and ship operations in 2011. A portion of the funding supports the purchase of instruments and components from manufacturers in several states that work with Scripps.

--Oceanographer Eric Terrill won support for a REMUS 600 autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) configured with specialized sensors. The waters offshore of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography pier will serve as a research and engineering test bed and allow for cost-effective ocean testing of AUV technology to water depths of 600 meters (1,970 feet). A variety of operating conditions are easily accessible from the pier, which has proven to be a highly cost-efficient facility for development of new sensors, techniques and procedures for operating unmanned underwater vehicles. The instrument can also be tested in the San Diego Harbor at Scripps' Nimitz Marine Facility in Point Loma, home of the Scripps Navy-funded fleet of seagoing research vessels.

The REMUS 600 platform and sensor development program will leverage expertise developed over the last decade in operating the smaller REMUS 100 developed for shallow water oceanography. The 600 system is a larger and longer-duration unmanned underwater vehicle, and will be used in coastal oceanography research programs. The AUV is manufactured by Hydroid, a firm in Pocasset, Massachusetts.

"The newer and larger vehicle will allow us to extend our ocean sampling over a much wider region of coastal waters and provide a platform for the testing of new sensors to measure ocean and seafloor conditions," said Terrill. "Time and again at-sea, basic science research programs have had the side benefit of developing new technologies and scientific results that assist the Navy in defining future capabilities."

Terrill and Navy officials added that as the Navy increasingly relies upon unmanned underwater technologies to support its missions, it is important that organizations such as Scripps have access to these technologies to efficiently develop new sensors, operating strategies and data synthesis tools to support forecast models.

"Commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command (CNMOC), and their subordinate commands, use the same or similar technologies in their operational surveys and measurement of the operational environment," said William Burnett, technical director, Commander, Naval Meteorology and Oceanography Command. "This award provides potential opportunities to test new technologies and concepts that could lead to sensing and platform improvements, ultimately enhancing oceanographic and meteorological support to Navy operational capabilities."

--Two DURIP awards will fund critical observational technology on the hull of the new Navy-owned, Scripps-operated research vessel, set to begin construction this year, said Bruce Appelgate, Scripps Associate Director of Ship Operations and Marine Technical Support. The vessel, currently known as AGOR 28, will be fitted with a swath-mapping system designed to image seafloor regions at depths less than 1,000 meters. The multibeam echosounder system will complement another such system already scheduled to be installed on AGOR 28 that performs imaging at depths greater than 1,000 meters.

The second DURIP award for the vessel will support installation of two acoustic Doppler current profilers (ADCPs) manufactured by Poway, Calif. firm Teledyne-RDI. The profilers are used for measuring currents in the water column beneath the ship. The award also funds the installation of an ultra-short baseline navigation system used for precise tracking of objects such as remotely operated vehicles and autonomous vehicles in the water.

Though academic in nature, many seagoing research activities address significant issues with relevance to Navy objectives. For example, swath mapping systems are used to create detailed topographic maps of the seafloor, and ADCPs are used to make 3D models of ocean currents from the sea surface to deeper than 1,000 meters (3,280 feet). This sort of information often forms the foundation of studies of ocean physics, geology and acoustics, with a broad range of applications.

"These instruments constitute basic tools of the trade that complement the already-impressive suite of sensors funded for AGOR 28, and will extend the capability of the vessel and its mission as a general-purpose research vessel," Appelgate said.

--Scripps oceanographer Ken Melville secured funding to deploy autonomous ocean surface vehicles that can measure key variables of air-sea interaction, especially in combination with measurements from other instruments and platforms. Wave gliders manufactured by Liquid Robotics use the power of surface waves for propulsion. Onboard instruments powered by a solar panel and batteries measure temperature, salinity, surface current, wave properties and other ocean-atmosphere variables.

"These measurements will significantly improve our understanding of air-sea interactions and lead to improved numerical models and predictions of air-sea fluxes of momentum, heat and water vapor," said Melville.

Initially, Melville intends to design air-sea interaction studies comparing data from the wave gliders while they are underway with data gathered from the Scripps research platform FLIP. He added that the work will ultimately lead to improved predictions of waves, weather and climate for naval applications.

"Liquid Robotics congratulates Scripps Institution of Oceanography on their selection by Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP)," said Alan DeClerck, director, Science and Commercial Markets at the Sunnyvale, Calif. firm. "We are especially pleased to collaborate with the team at Scripps on this innovative DURIP research, and to have the opportunity to support their defense-critical goals with our Wave Glider autonomous marine robots."

--To supplement substantial research previously conducted by the U.S. Navy on low-frequency noise in the deep oceans, marine acoustics researcher William Hodgkiss will design and fabricate a 128-element vertical hydrophone array that will listen to mid-frequency ambient noise in deep water. Data from the array will improve understanding of the dynamics of the mid-frequency ambient noise environment and the development of Navy anti-submarine warfare signal processing algorithms to operate in this frequency band, Hodgkiss said.

In a separate effort, Hodgkiss will design and fabricate surface buoys to provide a communications data link between underwater arrays collecting acoustic data and a nearby ship. These buoys will enable retrieval of modest amounts of data for initial analysis purposes without needing to recover the array hardware.

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