A Manual Scan Imaging Sonar
Background Sonar systems of similar application as this invention fall into three categories: single-beam mechanical scan, single-beam hand-held, and multiple-beam hand-held. Existing mechanically scanned single-beam sonars require a stable platform and stepper motor controls, which prevents their use by a diver. Hand-held single-beam sonars provide range-only information to the diver, who is then required to remember where targets are located. Existing multiple-beam sonars continuously display range and bearing for targets over a limited sector, but require an amount of circuitry proportional to the sector coverage. The size and power requirements of a multiple-beam sonar significantly limit sector extent, resolution, and maneuverability.
Invention Description This University of Texas-Austin invention is a manual scan sonar that integrates multiple technologies into a compact and low-cost single-beam sonar having the ability to generate wide sector views comparable to that of much larger and more expensive multiple-beam sonar units. The manual scan sonar uses a piezoelectric transducer, orientation and motion sensors, a preamplifier and power amplifier, and a microcomputer with a display, all contained within a compact waterproof housing.
In operation, the user scans the sonar across an area, and the orientation and motion sensors monitor the user’s natural human motion to provide bearing information which is processed and stored by the microcomputer. The ultrasonic information provided by the sound echoes is displayed on the display screen of the computer as a continuous sector. This sonar may be adapted for either diver-held or topside use.
Device permits the operator to move while automatically generating large-area underwater images. Images obtained with device are very similar in quality to existing sonar systems, yet do not have the operational restrictions of those systems. Device is simple, flexible, inexpensive, and uses microcomputer to store information. Device may be used for surveys, location, detection, and classification of underwater objects, and generation of a geophysically correct map over an extended area.
Display image obtained is very similar to that obtained from a single beam mechanically scanned sonar system. Device is capable of locating/imaging objects ranging in size from less than an inch to many yards in extent. Operational range extends from one foot to hundreds of yards.
Market Potential/Applications There are multiple market segments that could readily benefit from this invention with several applications for the commercial, consumer, local/federal agencies, and military. Some specific uses include:
- Geographic and contour mapping of local areas - Fisheries inspections (fish locating/mapping)
- Treasure hunting and lost object recovery - Accident/crime scene investigation/rescue - Structure/damage assessment (e.g., oil wells, ship hulls, docks)
- Underwater surveillance/security/reconnaissance - Hydrographic survey - Ordnance classification - Diver training and marine mammal training programs
Development Stage Lab/bench prototype
IP Status One U.S. patent issued: 6,226,227
UT Researcher Keith H. Lent, Ph.D., Applied Research Laboratories, The University of Texas at Austin Kenneth L. Krueger, BSEE, Applied Research Laboratories, The University of Texas at Austin
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