Naval Undersea Warfare Center (NUWC) Division Newport recently assisted Massachusetts-based small business Bionet Sonar by underwater testing its new wireless technology called HydroNet at the Narragansett Bay Test Facility for two days in February.
HydroNet is an open, modular and programmable underwater modem that powers an autonomous wireless communications system bringing the internet underwater and empowering the network with artificial intelligence-driven, software-defined technologies.
Its plug-and-play capability with remotely operated vehicles (ROVs), autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), and unmanned undersea vehicles (UUVs) creates a network of mobile assets. Bionet Sonar replaces radio frequency (RF) waves with ultrasonic waves that are secure, long-range, and enable high-speed, real-time monitoring.
Bionet Sonar was able to test HydroNet at Division Newport’s Narragansett Bay Test Facility through a collaboration process with the Northeast Tech Bridge, as part of the Blueswell Incubator Program, a New England-based early-stage blue tech innovator. Senior researcher and Bionet co-founder Dr. Emrecan Demirors was introduced to Division Newport through Blueswell and soon after the company signed a Cooperative Research and Development Agreement (CRADA) with Division Newport to conduct the testing.
The Bionet team worked with Dr. Steven Bordonaro, director, Northeast Tech Bridge, and Dillon Fournier, manager of the Narragansett Bay Test Facility, to arrange the testing needed for their technology.
“The Navy and our local team have a wealth of experience testing underwater systems,” Bordonaro said. “We want companies developing technology to be able to leverage this experience. The goal is to advance and field technologies quicker, whether the application is for defense only, or if it also has commercial application.”
“They were really helpful with logistics,” Demirors said about Division Newport’s testing team. “They prepared the moorings and anchors for the modems and provided guidance on the deployments. The team was very helpful, always ready. They made it very easy for us to deploy. With the Navy taking care of the logistics, it was much, much easier. We could focus on the technology itself rather than the logistics.”
For the test, the team deployed two wireless modems that were connected to two Bionet smart buoys, which allowed for interface and computing capabilities. The smart buoys were connected to the company’s server through a secure channel. During the two days of testing, the team was able to collect the data needed to move their project forward.
“The results were fantastic,” Demirors said. “Everything was functioning as it should be.”
The HydroNet project is funded by the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) through the Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer programs, which encourage small businesses to engage in government research and development with the potential for commercialization.
“We are extremely pleased about this partnership with Bionet Sonar,” said Mary Sylvia, Division Newport’s technology partnership officer and deputy director of the Northeast Tech Bridge. “It is an example of how the Northeast Tech Bridge enables our local maritime ecosystem. Using the tech transfer tools that we have available — such as this CRADA — Division Newport has the ability to advance technology of mutual benefit to both the Navy and the partner. The fact that this testing initiated through a Tech Bridge engagement, using our Narragansett Bay Test Facility via a CRADA, and in support of the company’s SBIR award, connects a lot of dots to bring technical capability further.”
The Bionet team would like to return to the Narragansett Bay Test Facility this summer to work on communications techniques to further improve data rates. The company plans to integrate with UUVs, not just fixed nodes but mobile nodes and would like to work on a semi-permanent deployment of a grid of modems – 1 kilometer by 1 kilometer, with nine modems – in order to provide wireless connectivity in that grid to wireless assets.
“The goal this summer is to generate a real underwater network that’s wireless,” Demirors said.
NUWC Division Newport is a shore command of the U.S. Navy within the Naval Sea Systems Command, which engineers, builds and supports America’s fleet of ships and combat systems. NUWC Newport provides research, development, test and evaluation, engineering and fleet support for submarines, autonomous underwater systems, undersea offensive and defensive weapons systems, and countermeasures associated with undersea warfare.
NUWC Newport is the oldest warfare center in the country, tracing its heritage to the Naval Torpedo Station established on Goat Island in Newport Harbor in 1869. Commanded by Capt. Chad Hennings, NUWC Newport maintains major detachments in West Palm Beach, Florida, and Andros Island in the Bahamas, as well as test facilities at Seneca Lake and Fisher’s Island, New York, Leesburg, Florida, and Dodge Pond, Connecticut.
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