Hydrodynamic Control of a Towed Vertical Array
Navy SBIR FY2018.1


Sol No.: Navy SBIR FY2018.1
Topic No.: N181-036
Topic Title: Hydrodynamic Control of a Towed Vertical Array
Proposal No.: N181-036-0761
Firm: Makai Ocean Engineering, Inc.
P.O. Box 1206
Kailua, Hawaii 96734
Contact: Kevin Veenstra
Phone: (808) 259-8871
Web Site: http://www.makai.com
Abstract: Makai proposes to address the towed vertical array shape control problem by developing a technology for direct integration onto the vertical array: the SURTASS Vertical Array Control System (SVACS). The SVACS innovation will solve the issues of straightness, verticality and orientation without requiring expensive redesign of the arrays themselves and can be easily incorporated into the existing and new systems. The novel intermittent operating concept of the SVACS technology will avoid introducing acoustic noise at critical times. The promoted concept consists of thruster modules placed along the length of the array arranged to provide forces capable of restoring the system to vertical and accurately controlling the array shape. In addition to thrusters, each module will include sensors to inform the SVACS software controller. Array shape estimation and control of the thruster modules is recognized by Makai as an important development aspect of the proposed SVACS technology. Makai has unparalleled experience in this field and we will seek to leverage our experience to provide a high fidelity turnkey hydrodynamic control system. The technical objective of the proposed phase I study is to model, design and prove the SVACS concept via robust hydrodynamic modeling, risk reduction experiments and experienced ocean engineering.
Benefits: The proposed work blends well with Makaiƒ?Ts continuing development and commercial sales of submarine cable software. Makaiƒ?Ts software products: MakaiPlan, MakaiPlan Pro and MakaiLay are used worldwide by over 90% of the subsea telecom cable fleet. Our customers include nearly every major designer, supplier, owner and installer of submarine cables in the world. Makai submarine cable products have already transitioned to the IUSS program for the installation of fixed Navy arrays and to DoD labs (e.g. NUWC, NFESC). Importantly, Makai already has experience transitioning custom technology directly to the same customer of this proposed development; Makaiƒ?Ts novel array shape estimation (ASE) software has transitioned to the Integrated Common Processor (ICP), strengthening their twin-line towed array program. In parallel with this effort, Makai will be working toward transitioning the twin-line array straightening hardware system to SURTASS (described in example 1 of Sec. 4), which will provide additional valuable experience needed to rapidly transition the vertical towed array straightening system to the fleet. The size of the military market will initially be limited to vessels designated for active array operations, but conceivably this could in the future include the entire U.S. Navyƒ?Ts SURTASS fleet (5 vessels), and the Japanese Auxiliary Ocean Surveillance (JAOS) SWATH ships (2 vessels), and potential vessels of opportunity that are currently being investigated. Each of these ships is outfitted with either CLA or CFLA. Makai will leverage our existing strong relationships with the SURTASS community to ensure that, at each stage, the development of the hardware system is consistent with their pathways to procurement, and that we lay the foundation for a seamless transition to the fleet. Makai estimates that we could have units built and tested on operational arrays in 12 months after Phase II is completed. If successful and fully accepted by the U.S. Navy, we would expect that 7-10 units would be incorporated on existing operational and spare arrays over a period of several years. In addition to the U.S. Navy, there is the potential of international sales to U.S. Allies such as Japan if approved by DoD, and additional income could be generated by providing services for further development and improvement of the system. While the initially proposed design focuses on the rather specific application of straightening towed vertical arrays, Makai is confident that this work would enhance Makaiƒ?Ts ability to provide array modeling and hardware design services to PMS-485, DARPA, and other branches of the DoD. Currently Makai is involved in the DRAPES program, the MUSE program, as well as the DARPA TUNA Phase 2 project, all of which involve cable/array modeling, and in some cases hardware straightening solutions. The experience gained under this SBIR effort would be directly relevant to those programs and potentially others. In addition to the military market, Makai believes that these hardware design capabilities could be adapted to serve similar but non-military acoustic/seismic array systems employed by surveyors and the offshore oil and gas exploration market. Makai has existing clients in this industry who use our MakaiLay cable lay software to install ocean bottom cables (OBCs) for oil exploration. We will use our industry knowledge and connections to evaluate opportunities to market, sell, and license this technology to the major players supporting offshore seismic operations, such as CGG, Sercel, and ION Geophysical. Makai has a proven track record of successfully transitioning SBIR-funded technology to commercial markets. This is reflected by Makai being selected as the 2016 Tibbetts Award winner by the Small Business Administration (SBA) for commercialization of SBIR technology, and by our SBA designated Commercialization Achievement Index of 100 out of 100, the highest possible score, for the last 10 years. Tibbetts Award winners are selected based on the economic impact of their technological innovation, and the extent to which that innovation served federal R&D needs, and increased the commercialization of federal research. Currently we estimate that the basic cost of each military unit could be in the range of $150k-250k, while technologies for the oil and gas market would have to be evaluated further. A more concrete commercialization plan and pricing will be developed after completion of the Phase I study. Overall, we are confident that the developments from this SBIR project will enhance our capabilities in the submarine cable market and improve our marketability over the long term. By pushing this state-of-the-art technology, Makai will be able to expand its subsea engineering quality and leadership in this field and be in a prime position to expand our client base.

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