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ECA Group and SOACSY recently signed a licensing agreement giving ECA exclusive rights to exploit developments using the latter’s seaCHIRP technology based on synthetic aperture sonar (SAS) for the detection of buried naval mines.

Naval mines can be either visible on the surface (moored or floating mines) or detectable underwater as bottom mines. Underwater mines can become buried by waves and currents in sandy bottoms or by impact in muddy soil. As a consequence, naval mines become undetectable by conventional HF vessel-mounted mine-hunting sonars as well as towed sonars or those mounted on unmanned vessels.

ECA, which has specialized in robotics for naval mine countermeasures for over 50 years, providing solutions to over 30 navies worldwide and SOACSY, developers of innovative acoustic systems and survey services, have signed a licensing agreement in order to provide an efficient solution for buried mine detection and classification. SOACSY’s seaCHIRP technology sets a new standard in sub-bottom profiling data quality, resulting in improved signal/noise, accurate interpretation of detected objects and cost-effectiveness. Combining super-wideband technology with high resolution beamforming and SAS processing, which was designed for precision sub-seabed exploration and assessment, seaCHIRP collects data, processes it on-line in low resolution and visualizes it for quality. Then, collected data are post processed and can be interpreted using the proprietary seaLOGS software.

seaCHIRP has been deployed on vessels from 5-40m, covering 2,400km of survey lines and collecting one terabyte of data since 2014. Principal applications have been for detection of unexploded ordnance, debris, pipelines/cables, marine archaeology and sedimentary studies. Its main advantages include full seabed coverage in minimal acquisition time, precise X, Y, Z contact positioning, contact size estimation, quick and easy set-up and a compact, versatile and ruggedized system.

ECA Group will industrialize seaCHIRP technology to provide navies with a fully operational solution to detect and classify buried subsea mines. ECA Robotics Belgium will manage development and industrialization of the technology, leveraging the Group’s continuing work in HF SAS and developing a real-time solution for data processing, using proprietary (patent pending) algorithms for efficient and accurate synthetic aperture processing.

The aim is to integrate a buried mine neutralization capability in ECA’s Unmanned MCM Integrated System (UMIS), a comprehensive drone-based system for mine warfare operations, developed for surveying and securing large or complex zones at sea as well as in coastal areas. This modular solution is based on a wide range of unmanned vehicles that can be configured in line with user and operational requirements. UMIS also integrates the UMISOFT software suite, allowing easy and complete management of the entire unmanned mission from preparation, planning and supervision, to data acquisition, processing analysis and management.

SOACSY’s seaCHIRP technology will help detect and neutralise buried sea-mines. (Photo via ECA Group)

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