Synthetic Aperture Sonar Micronavigation Using An Active Acoustic Beacon.
Thesis DisciplineElectrical Engineering
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameDoctor of Philosophy
Synthetic aperture sonar (SAS) technology has rapidly progressed over the past few years with a number of commercial systems emerging. Such systems are typically based on an autonomous underwater vehicle platform containing multiple along-track receivers and an integrated inertial navigation system (INS) with Doppler velocity log aiding. While producing excellent images, blurring due to INS integration errors and medium fluctuations continues to limit long range, long run, image quality. This is particularly relevant in mine hunting, the main application for SAS, where it is critical to survey the greatest possible area in the shortest possible time, regardless of sea conditions. This thesis presents the simulation, design, construction, and sea trial results for a prototype "active beacon" and remote controller unit, to investigate the potential of such a device for estimating SAS platform motion and medium fluctuations. The beacon is deployed by hand in the area of interest and acts as an active point source with real-time data uploading and control performed by radio link. Operation is tightly integrated with the operation of the Acoustics Research Group KiwiSAS towed SAS, producing one-way and two-way time of flight (TOF) data for every ping by detecting the sonar chirps, time-stamping their arrival using a GPS receiver, and replying back at a different acoustic frequency after a fixed time delay. The high SNR of this reply signal, combined with the knowledge that it is produced by a single point source, provides advantages over passive point-like targets for SAS image processing. Stationary accuracies of < 2 mm RMS have been measured at ranges of up to 36m. This high accuracy allowed the beacon to be used in a separate study to characterise the medium fluctuation statistics in Lyttelton Harbour, New Zealand, using an indoor dive pool as a control. Probability density functions were fitted to the data then incorporated in SAS simulations to observe their effect on image quality. Results from recent sea trials in Lyttelton Harbour show the beacon TOF data, when used in a narrowband motion compensation (MOCOMP) process, provided improvements to the quality of SAS images centred on frequencies of 30 kHz and 100 kHz. This prototype uses simple matched-filtering algorithms for detection and while performing well under stationary conditions, the fluctuations caused by the narrow sonar transmit beam pattern (BP) and changing superposition of seabed multipath often cause dropouts and inaccurate detections during sea trials. An analysis of the BP effects and how the accuracy and robustness of the detection algorithms can be improved is presented. Overcoming these problems reliably is difficult without dedicated large scale testing facilities to allow conditions to be reproduced consistently.