Fiberoptic sonar sensors target harbor surveillance

Enhanced maritime security in major ports across the United States may soon become a reality, thanks to a new harbor defense system being developed and tested by Northrop Grumman Corporation to identify and track potential underwater and surface ship threats.

Dec 15th, 2004

WOODLAND HILLS, CA—Enhanced maritime security in major ports across the United States may soon become a reality, thanks to a new harbor defense system being developed and tested by Northrop Grumman Corporation to identify and track potential underwater and surface ship threats. Called Centurion, the integrated sensor and display product was unveiled this month; during harbor tests, the Centurion showed the harbor vicinity and potential threats on a standard Navy display system located at the test site. Divers with a battery-powered underwater propulsion device were easily detected attempting to penetrate the harbor; surface craft traveling in the test area and entering the port were also detected and tracked.

The proof-of-concept demonstration was completed within three months of the contract award by the Navy's Maritime Surveillance Systems Program Office, utilizing passive fiberoptic sonar arrays and support equipment delivered by Northrop Grumman's Navigation and Space Sensors Division, coupled with commercial-off-the-shelf equipment provided by Northrop Grumman's Sperry Marine business unit (Charlottesville, VA).

"The fiber-optic hydrophone array technology employed is unique to Northrop Grumman and derives from 15 years of leadership in this field," said Alexis Livanos, vice president and general manager of the Navigation and Space Sensors Division. "The arrays employ glass fibers, instead of older technology piezoelectric hydrophones, to convert sound to modulated light for efficient transmission to shore. The sensor arrays have low power requirements and provide wide frequency coverage."

The next step in maturation of the technology involves optimizing the fiberoptic sonar arrays for the harbor environment, integrating additional sensors into the system, and demonstrating the enhanced integrated harbor picture that results from these improvements.

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