The cost, reliability and precision of placing munitions at various depths and orientations for the purposes of validating underwater unexploded ordnance (UXO) detection methodologies is highly cumbersome, involved, and often dangerous. Munitions can be heavy, the waters murky, combined with currents and wave actions culminating in dangerous situations. The result can be imprecise placement in terms of location, orientation, and depth. The reverse is also true. Once located, removing a detected UXO is labor-intensive and potentially highly dangerous. With adjustments, a technology that implants a munition should be able to pick, remove, and carry it away (PUCA).
The project's technical objectives are to determine:
- Soil density/type limitations on caisson advancement and interior extraction in terms of power and system weight
- Precision in terms of target position, angle, and depth
- Operational limits in terms of sea states and slopes
- Mission capacity limits and production rates (number and type of targets)
- If the system can be extended for extraction of targets and subsequently live rounds
- Level of automation and ease of use
This project will leverage the “Sea Ox” being developed under MR-201712, which precisely maneuvers a UXO sensor sled. Under this project, a "Harvester" payload and modification of Sea Ox will be developed to expand the payload deck, power plant, and controls.
The Harvester will use the Sea Ox platform to carry and position a system that can "plant" or bury targets to various depths and vertical orientations. The self-contained system will use a trench box or caisson driven in the seafloor to provide structural soil support. The interior of the box will be excavated using a pump to whatever geometry is needed, and a target will be rolled-in from an on-board carousel. The caisson will be extracted, the hole filled, and the vehicle will then move to the next location.
Removing divers and replacing them with the robotic emplacement technology will greatly reduce operational cost and improve safety of validating and certifying UXO technology and remediation teams and broaden the operational envelope. Precise and reliable placement will enhance validation confidence. The caisson and vacuum process is an essential step to exposure and recovery of UXO and the addition of an electromagnet or grapple could result in a PUCA process, eliminating the need for blow-in-place procedures.