Data Exfiltration and Communication Architecture for Cooperative, Autonomous, Underwater, Long-endurance Sensors

Navy SBIR 23.2 - Topic N232-109
ONR - Office of Naval Research
Pre-release 4/19/23   Opens to accept proposals 5/17/23   Closes 6/14/23 12:00pm ET    [ View Q&A ]

N232-109 TITLE: Data Exfiltration and Communication Architecture for Cooperative, Autonomous, Underwater, Long-endurance Sensors


OBJECTIVE: Develop a communication and data exfiltration architecture with related algorithms to support a spatially-distributed and depth-varied field of long endurance Underwater Autonomous Sensors (UAS) operating in a cooperative network in an ocean environment.

DESCRIPTION: Long endurance, autonomous sensors such as gliders, profiling floats, sonobuoys, and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) continue to provide critical measurements in oceanographic surveys and experimentation. Individually, these sensors can be deployed to provide a basic understanding both spatially and temporally of oceanographic phenomena. However, a comprehensive underwater monitoring approach would be possible if a fleet of autonomous, underwater sensors were capable of underwater communication, networking, and cooperatively exfiltrating data back to a central node/platform for aggregation. This SBIR topic takes advantage of continued technological advances in communication networks and autonomous systems to develop algorithms for UAS synchronization and communication architectures. The objective is to develop a communication and data exfiltration architecture with related algorithms to support a spatially-distributed and depth-varied field of long endurance UASs operating in a cooperative network in an ocean environment. The architecture should be sensor-agnostic to allow for synchronization and communication between multiple platform types (e.g., Sonobuoy to glider). The algorithms should assume 10s to 100s of sensors at multiple depths, which can span from 60 ft. to > 1500 ft. and spatially separated by 1-10nmi between platforms with a data exfiltration component to specialized nodes. Initial data collected and communicated should include latitude, longitude, pressure, and temperature with future options including acoustic data. A-sized sonobuoys will function as the initial platform for algorithm and physical architecture development. The proposed prototype hardware that will host the developed algorithms must be subject to the size (< 1100 cu in.), weight (< 24 lbs.), and power requirements to fit in the lower unit of a traditional A-size sonobuoy.

Work produced in Phase II may become classified. Note: The prospective contractor(s) must be U.S. owned and operated with no foreign influence as defined by DoD 5220.22-M, National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual, unless acceptable mitigating procedures can and have been implemented and approved by the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA). The selected contractor must be able to acquire and maintain a secret level facility and Personnel Security Clearances. This will allow contractor personnel to perform on advanced phases of this project as set forth by DCSA and ONR in order to gain access to classified information pertaining to the national defense of the United States and its allies; this will be an inherent requirement. The selected company will be required to safeguard classified material IAW DoD 5220.22-M during the advanced phases of this contract.

PHASE I: Develop the initial concept design and algorithms, and model key components to demonstrate proof of concept. To support multiple potential optimal configurations, indicate the trade/risk space on cost/feasibility/component maturation for capability to achieve a spatially distributed network of UASs at a variety of depths, spacing (1-10nmi), and operational life (8hrs 14days). Perform an estimate of component costs and fabrication estimates for new technology to be developed in subsequent phases of the effort.

PHASE II: Construct a prototype system based on the Phase I design(s) for demonstration and validation. System development should include development/maturation of the communication and data exfiltration algorithms, as well as prototypes for collection, exfiltration, and aggregation of oceanographic data. Software should rely on open-source languages and libraries. Multiple demonstrations in operationally relevant environments should be planned, including in coordination with a larger research field exercise with additional autonomous sensors. Prototype(s) should 1) be run in near-real time, 2) test communication and networking at a variety of spatial, temporal, and depth scales/spacing, and 3) validation criteria include accuracy, latency, and processing time. Upon completion of Phase II, the prototype(s) and a technical report outlining function and validation/verification of performance should be delivered to the Department of Navy (DON) ready for demonstration at sea.

Work in Phase II may become classified. Please see note in Description section.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Phase III efforts will align with the program of record to integrate the results of the Phase II work. This includes manufacture of multiple units, incorporation of algorithms to systems (where feasible), and adjusting requirements based on needs of the operational environment.

Dual-use applications include coordination with other governmental partners for oceanographic monitoring and data collection (such as National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association (NOAA)), university partners using data for pedagogical and/or research purposes, and industry partners with needs for autonomous, underwater monitoring or survey.


  1. Ferri*, G., Munafò*, A., Tesei, A., Braca, P., Meyer, F., Pelekanakis, K., & LePage, K. (2017). Cooperative robotic networks for underwater surveillance: an overview. IET Radar, Sonar & Navigation, 11(12), 1740-1761.
  2. Yoon, S., & Qiao, C. (2010). Cooperative search and survey using autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). IEEE Transactions on Parallel and Distributed Systems, 22(3), 364-379.
  3. The Ears of Air ASW: A History of U.S. Navy Sonobuoys. Navmar Applied Sciences Corporation, 2008

KEYWORDS: environmental monitoring; cooperative network; Underwater Autonomous Sensors; distributed field; underwater monitoring; sonobuoys


The Navy Topic above is an "unofficial" copy from the Navy Topics in the DoD 23.2 SBIR BAA. Please see the official DoD Topic website at for any updates.

The DoD issued its Navy 23.2 SBIR Topics pre-release on April 19, 2023 which opens to receive proposals on May 17, 2023, and closes June 14, 2023 (12:00pm ET).

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Topic Q & A

5/15/23  Q. Are any specific communication links or data transmission rates assumed for exfiltrating data back to a central node/platform for aggregation?
   A. No; however, current communications links such as the UHF/VHF link between sonobuoys and monitoring platforms may be utilized. We would like the use case described to determine the comms link and transmission rates required for data exfiltration.
5/15/23  Q. Are any specific communication links or data transmission rates assumed between Underwater Autonomous Sensors (UAS)?
   A. No; again, we would like the use described to determine the specific comms link required and data transmission rates.
5/15/23  Q. Are software only solutions applicable or do proposed solutions need to include hardware?
   A. Both solutions are viable within the scope of the solicitation.

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