Electro-Optical Infrared (EO/IR) Imaging System to Improve Navigation
Navy SBIR 2015.1 - Topic N151-044
NAVSEA - Mr. Dean Putnam - [email protected]
Opens: January 15, 2015 - Closes: February 25, 2015 6:00am ET

N151-044 TITLE: Electro-Optical Infrared (EO/IR) Imaging System to Improve Navigation

TECHNOLOGY AREAS: Sensors, Electronics, Battlespace

ACQUISITION PROGRAM: PMS377, Landing Craft, Air Cushion (J-Division) and Ship to Shore Connector

The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with section 5.4.c.(8) of the solicitation. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.

OBJECTIVE: Develop a durable and low cost Electro-Optical (EO)/Infrared (IR) imaging device for the operators of the Navy�s Air Cushion Vehicles (ACVs).

DESCRIPTION: Air Cushion Vehicles (ACVs) conduct day and night, off-shore, near-shore, and on-shore missions. Operational and safety navigation requirements dictate that craft operators maintain situational awareness in littoral environments during periods of daylight, twilight, and darkness. Operators must also be able to see through sea spray, high humidity, haze, smoke, and dust. Currently, situational awareness on the Landing Craft, Air Cushion (LCAC) is achieved through the use of craft mounted Radio Detection and Ranging (RADAR), visual watches, and night vision devices.

A critical element to the successful and safe execution of low visibility, day or night missions is providing the craft crew with a clear picture of the environment around and in front of the craft allowing them to develop and maintain situational awareness. This is currently provided on LCAC by RADAR which, while effective in detecting contacts in the off-shore environment, becomes less and less effective in the near-shore environment and is ineffective during on-shore operations. Currently, RADAR shortcomings are offset by the use of night vision goggles. Additionally, the helmet mounted night vision goggles have performance limitations resulting in incomplete situational awareness and have been linked to spine and neck injuries following periods of extended use.

Surface RADAR performance in littoral environments is adversely affected by terrain features (such as excessive RADAR Radio Frequency (RF) energy gain return and land masking, video drag from elevated land features, and low operator recognition differential in areas of low elevation and flat terrain). Surface RADAR performance is further degraded by atmospheric contaminants (smoke and dust) and high humidity or spray. Additionally, RADAR does not detect all surface contacts and does not have the ability to classify or identify contacts. Night vision goggles have range and ambient light limitations, and are adversely sensitive to smoke and dust. The current capability limits the Warfighter�s ability to identify friendly or hostile surface or land based contacts. This limitation results in a reduction of craft speed, causing increased vulnerability to shore threats (such as coastal artillery) and increased off-load time.

An EO/IR system (or similar hyper spectral imaging sensor) should greatly increase operator situational awareness by providing the ability to discern land terrain, sea, and waterway features and contacts, such as small boats and patrol craft in the near-shore environment where surface RADAR performance is limited. A hyper spectral imagery system with thermal contrast, such as an EO/IR sensor, will provide capability to detect and identify surface contacts (fiberglass, composite boats, and others), and beach borne and land-based threats (hostile tactical vehicles) that have very low RADAR signatures. The unique capabilities of a combination of electro-optical imagery, infrared imaging, night vision systems, and laser and range finding tools will enhance ACV combat operations (ref #1). Combining infrared-imaging sensors with electro-optical imagers can potentially lead to systems that are effective during both day and night operations (ref #2). Navigation safety and the crew�s ability to detect and track surface contacts will be improved, enabling ACVs to operate at higher speeds and enhance mission capability.

PHASE I: The company will define and develop a concept for an EO/IR System that meets the requirements as stated in the topic description. The company will demonstrate the feasibility of the concept in meeting Navy needs and will establish that it can be developed into a useful system for the Navy. Feasibility will be established by material testing and analytical modeling.

PHASE II: Based on the results of Phase I and the Phase II contract statement of work, the company will develop, demonstrate, and validate a prototype EO/IR system for evaluation. The prototype will be evaluated to determine its capability in meeting Navy requirements for the EO/IR system. The prototype will undergo an operational demonstration on a Landing Craft, Air Cushion (LCAC) in order to evaluate and determine system performance. Evaluation results will be used to refine the prototype into a design that meets Navy requirements. The company will prepare a Phase III development plan to transition the technology to Navy use.

PHASE III: If Phase II is successful, the company will be expected to support the Navy in transitioning the system for Navy use. The company will refine the design of the EO/IR system, according to the Phase III development plan for evaluation to determine its effectiveness in an operationally relevant environment. The company will support the Navy for test and validation to certify and qualify the system for Navy use and for transition into operational LCACs.

PRIVATE SECTOR COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL/DUAL-USE APPLICATIONS: The EO/IR system described in this SBIR topic paper could have private sector commercial potential and dual-use applicability for any ship or craft operating in the near- or on-shore environment, and vehicles operating on-shore. Riverine operations would benefit from an enhanced system. Commercial hovercraft, ferries, pilot boats, and transports would also benefit from the development of this system.

1. Wood, Brain; Irvine, Nelson; Schacher, Gordon; Jensen, Jack. "Joint Multi-Mission Electro-Optics System (JMMES) Report of Military Utility." Calhoun Institutional Archive of the Naval Postgraduate School, 22 March 2010, Naval Postgraduate School, Monterey, California. 30 April 2013, http://calhoun.nps.edu/public/handle/10945/678

2. Sharma, V. and Davis, J.W. "A feature-selection approach to fusing electro-optical and IR imagery." SPIE, Newsroom. 2009, International Society for Optics and Photonics. 20 March 2013.

KEYWORDS: Infrared (IR); Electro-Optical (EO); Radio Detection And Ranging (RADAR) for landing operations; night vision; imaging device to determine terrain features; navigation of LCACs; safety during beach landings; and combat enhancement

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