The Coast Guard has a growing need for tools that can accurately detect, classify and provide detailed images of threats or other items of interest underwater, such as parasitic hull attachments, improvised explosive devices, scuttled self-propelled semi-submersible vessels, lost Aids to Navigation (ATON) components or even lost personnel. Presently, divers search for these items, a time-consuming and costly process that yields marginal success and places divers in harm’s way. An underwater imaging capability would save labor, time and reduce risk.
The tasking included overseeing the production, delivery and evaluation of both the base and advanced Underwater Imaging System (UIS) from CodaOctopus. The UIS is a sub-surface inspection system with three dimensional imaging capability geospatially rectified that could be used on a Coast Guard vessel in support of multiple missions. Integral to the project is a programmatic environmental assessment to ensure that there are no detrimental effects to the environment when using the equipment. Originally a joint effort between the RDC and the Combating Terrorism Technical Support Office’s Technical Support Working Group, the project also included the Center for Ocean Technology at the University of South Florida, the Office of Naval Research and CodaOctopus Products Ltd.
Over the course of this effort, the UIS was placed with different operating units—including ATON teams, cutters and small boats—to assess its capability and performance under actual operational and environmental conditions. Additionally, various Coast Guard units requested support from the RDC to deploy the UIS and provide aid and assistance in conducting real-world underwater searches and identifications. The UIS has proven effective in several scenarios. The path forward will include working with the Coast Guard Office of Counterterrorism and Defense Operations in developing interim tactics, techniques and procedures to support the deployment of prototype units to better understand the cost of operating and maintaining the units compared to the benefits they provide.