Underwater Sub Detection: SBIR Tries to Think Like a Shark
Changes in US anti-submarine warfare strategy have included the growing importance of dealing with super-quiet diesel-electric submarines in shallow-water littorals.
In response, one of the early-stage Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) approaches involves thinking entirely outside the sonar box. We talk about “submariner dolphins” – but maybe the creature they really need to emulate is the shark. Now a recent contract indicates that the US military is making real progress toward that goal…
Unlike dolphins, sharks don’t use sonar. Instead, they rely on both an acute sense of smell – and on jelly-filled canals that pick up on the tiny electrical charges a potential morsel makes when it flexes its muscles, or swims counter to the earth’s magnetic fields.
As DefenseTech.org reported in July 2005, that second ability is the subject of no less than 3 Phase I SBIR contracts that are trying to duplicate the idea for use by submarines and underwater sensors:
- RD Instruments in San Diego, CA
- Quantum Applied Science & Research, Inc. in San Diego, CA
- Advanced Ceramics Research Inc. in Tucson, AZ.
As a subsequent SBIR contract announcement explains:
“The objective of the topic is to develop a covert/low-observable sensor system for detecting and classifying small, slow moving surface or subsurface bodies in coastal shallow water, bays, port areas, or waterways utilizing weak EM signals or field deviations. This technology has broad applications for both DoD and other Defense agencies.”
Couple that with R&D into artificial shark-skin hull coatings to keep pesky barnacles and algae away, and shark-like products may have a real future.
(Originally published July 6, 2005)
June 25/07: Small business qualifier QUASAR Federal Systems, Inc. in San Diego, CA received a $6 million not-to-exceed, indefinite-delivery, indefinite-quantity contract for a Phase III Small Business Innovative Research (SBIR) Program contract for Topic N05-003 entitled “Shark Weak Electromagnetic (EM) Field Detection for Moving Objects.” Work will be performed in San Diego, CA and is expected to be complete in June 2012.
Reaching SBIR Phase III is an indication that prototypes have been created, and the firm is beginning to prepare for product development. This contract was competitively procured using SBIR Program Solicitation under Topic N05-003; 21 offers were received by the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division in Lakehurst, NJ (N68335-07-D-0017).
As part of its SBIR program, the DoD issues an SBIR solicitation four times a year, describing its R&D needs and inviting R&D proposals from small companies – firms organized for profit with 500 or fewer employees, including all affiliated firms.
Companies apply first for a six-month to nine-month Phase I award of $70,000 to $100,000 to test the scientific, technical, and commercial merit and feasibility of a particular concept.
If Phase I proves successful, the company may be invited to apply for a 2-year Phase II award of $500,000 to $750,000 to further develop the concept, usually to the prototype stage. Proposals are judged competitively on the basis of scientific, technical, and commercial merit.
Following completion of Phase II, small companies are expected to obtain funding from the private sector and/or non-SBIR government sources (in “Phase III”) to develop the concept into a product for sale in private sector and/or military markets.
There is also an STTR program, which is similar in structure to SBIR but funds cooperative R&D projects involving a small business and a research institution (i.e., university, federally-funded R&D center, or nonprofit research institution).
- DID (June 7/05) – Australia’s MAGSAFE Offers New Options
- DID (May 10/05) – $27.7M to Develop PLUSNET Undersea Sensor Network
- DID (March 4/05) – U.S. Navy Exploring New Concepts, Procurement Priorities for ASW