Wide-area, High-resolution, Image-Based Mapping of Munitions Underwater

Nuno Gracias | University of Girona



The Department of Defense needs cost-effective methods for locating and identifying navigation and safety hazards related to underwater military munitions (UWMM). Currently, both wide-area searches and detailed mapping of underwater military munitions rely on acoustic and/or metal detection methods such as magnetometers or electromagnetic induction. Underwater optical images of the seabed are another technology that could benefit both surveys for UWMM as well as efforts to understand the environment around UWMM because optical images have very high spatial resolution; objects on the seabed as small as a few centimeters in diameter can be easily resolved with optical imagery. Despite the appealing benefits of optical imagery, there are currently technological barriers to efficient collection, accurate co-registration, and processing of large data volumes of optical seabed imagery. The objective of this project is to address these barriers thereby enabling wide-area, high-resolution, image-based mapping to become a regularly employed complement to other UWMM survey methods.

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Technical Approach

The technical approach in this project addresses research objectives related to (a) designing efficient surveys, (b) scaling 2.5-Dimensional and 3-Dimensional image mosaicking algorithms to address computational limits, (c) automated analysis of optical imagery at both coarse (detection) and fine (classification) levels of detail, (d) multi-temporal co-registration of optical datasets to facilitate change detection, and (e) improving optical image data under conditions of marginal visibility.

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This project will benefit UWMM monitoring and remediation efforts by adding another complementary data type to the toolkit of wide-area survey methods. Automated mapping and classification of targets (in any domain, not just munitions mapping) is typically aided by the addition of features derived from complementary data types. Optical imagery is quite unlike the other UWMM survey technologies, so it has the potential to add significant new discriminatory information. As an added benefit, wide-area imaging of the seabed has many other applications beyond UWMM, including: ecological monitoring, shipwreck mapping, infrastructure inspection, cable routing and construction planning, among others. Thus, this project has the potential to benefit a large, diverse community of users.

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Points of Contact

Principal Investigator

Dr Nuno Gracias

University of Girona

Phone: +34-663-187444

Program Manager

Munitions Response