A document discusses solutions to the problem of submarines having to rise above water to detect airplanes in the general vicinity. Two solutions are provided, in which a sensor is located just under the water surface, and at a few to tens of meter depth under the water surface.

The first option is a Fish Eye Lens (FEL) digital-camera combination, situated just under the water surface that will have near-full-hemisphere (360° azimuth and 90° elevation) field of view for detecting objects on the water surface. This sensor can provide a three-dimensional picture of the airspace both in the marine and in the land environment.

The FEL is coupled to a camera and can continuously look at the entire sky above it. The camera can have an Active Pixel Sensor (APS) focal plane array that allows logic circuitry to be built directly in the sensor. The logic circuitry allows data processing to occur on the sensor head without the need for any other external electronics.

In the second option, a single-photon sensitive (photon counting) detector-array is used at depth, without the need for any optics in front of it, since at this location, optical signals are scattered and arrive at a wide (tens of degrees) range of angles.

Beam scattering through clouds and seawater effectively negates optical imaging at depths below a few meters under cloudy or turbulent conditions. Under those conditions, maximum collection efficiency can be achieved by using a non-imaging photon-counting detector behind narrowband filters.

In either case, signals from these sensors may be fused and correlated or decorrelated with other sensor data to get an accurate picture of the object(s) above the submarine. These devices can complement traditional submarine periscopes that have a limited field of view in the elevation direction. Also, these techniques circumvent the need for exposing the entire submarine or its periscopes to the outside environment.

This work was done by Hamid Hemmati, Joseph M. Kovalik, and William H. Farr of Caltech, and John D. Dannecker of QinetiQ NA Corp. for NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. NPO-47916

This Brief includes a Technical Support Package (TSP).
Hemispherical Field-of-View Above-Water Surface Imager for Submarines

(reference NPO-47916) is currently available for download from the TSP library.

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This article first appeared in the August, 2012 issue of NASA Tech Briefs Magazine.

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