The Department of Defense announced awards to researchers at Scripps Institution of Oceanography, UC San Diego that will help Navy SEALs mount amphibious assaults, improve ocean weather and climate prediction, and help navigators understand major Pacific currents.
The Defense University Research Instrumentation Program (DURIP) grants support the development of instruments that have a wide range of military applications:
- Fluorometers used by Scripps oceanographer Robert Guza determine how water moves in surf zones. This information can guide nearshore movements of military personnel in areas where polluted waters present hazards to troops.
- Instrument packages for ship-deployed and recovered unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) developed in Ken Melville's laboratory will enhance the reach and effectiveness of ship-based air-sea interaction research and lead to improved models and predictions of ocean weather and climate.
- A new generation of robotic floats to be acquired by Scripps oceanographer Dan Rudnick is aiding efforts to predict the dynamics of the key ocean currents in the Pacific Ocean. The DURIP award will fund acquisition of up to 30 SOLO-II floats. The new floats, also used in the international Argo network that monitors all ocean basins, now are equipped with Iridium satellite equipment that enables two-way communication between operators and the profilers.
"This well-deserved award exemplifies Scripps and UCSD as worldwide leaders in science, technology and innovation," said U.S. Rep. Susan Davis, a senior member of the House Armed Services Committee whose district includes Scripps Oceanography. "This federal funding will help us better understand our oceans and provide critical information to the Navy. It is apparent, as recent events have demonstrated, that the Navy SEALs are an elite fighting force and a key component to keeping America safe. The information learned from this program will no doubt aid them in future missions. San Diego is proud to be home to these great institutes of research and learning, as well as play a role in the training of Navy SEALs."
"I congratulate all the DURIP award winners," said Dr. Michael Kassner, director of research in the Office of Naval Research. "This program is vitally important to the Navy executing its critical national security research mission. As many others have said, superior technology translates to superior military capability. It is very important that national security researchers have access to state-of-the-art research instrumentation to support transformative oceanographic research."
DURIP is a rigorous and competitive grants program managed by the Services enabling defense-critical research projects at academic institutions to acquire needed technical resources by the purchase or development of instrumentation and infrastructure to meet national security needs. In the absence of other sources of funding, DURIPs are a key means of acquiring new national security-relevant research capabilities.
UC San Diego won a total of six DURIP grants in the current funding cycle. Final funding amounts have not been confirmed.
Previous DURIP awards have facilitated inventions with a wide range of military and civilian applications. A DURIP award helped develop High-Seas Net, a satellite-based system that brought high-speed Internet and vastly improved data transmission capabilities to seagoing vessels. DURIP funds led to the development of so-called "wirewalker" instruments that use the power of ocean waves to move measurement equipment along fixed wires up and down the water column. Ongoing DURIP support helped create a source-receive node that facilitates research in acoustic data communications underwater. The nodes improve communication between seafloor sensors and unmanned craft underwater such as autonomous undersea vehicles and gliders as well as surface-to-subsurface communications from ships or buoys.
Funding of Guza's fluorometer research augments an earlier DURIP award for research benefitting military safety.
"This research is very relevant to pollution transport," said Guza. "The military, especially Navy SEALS, work in sometimes highly contaminated waters. This sort of work can help them understand if there's a known source of pollution where not to go. There are some areas where the water is so polluted that it could actually affect the health of Navy SEALS and the success of their mission."
Rudnick said the technological advance supported by his DURIP grant will assist an Office of Naval Research Directed Research Initiative (DRI) he leads that studies the origins of the Kuroshio and Mindanao currents off Taiwan and the Philippines.
"It's a major advance in float technology," said Rudnick. "We can change a float's mission while it's out at sea."
Melville previously used a DURIP grant to acquire UAVs that can make detailed atmospheric and ocean surface measurements. He said the new grant will help him develop new instrument payloads for ScanEagle UAVs that can be ship-launched and recovered, thus greatly expanding the capabilities and reach of the United States research fleet, especially new Navy-funded vessels currently being designed and slated for construction.