Jersey-Grown System Tracks Underwater Threats

Researchers at Stevens Institute of Technology have developed and built a system that tracks underwater threats to public safety.

Dr. Michael Bruno of Stevens Institute of Technology on Pier A in Hoboken, just north of the New Jersey Transit train and ferry terminal. Stevens engineers have developed a way to detect suspicious underwater sounds without the use of sonar, which can interfere with marine wildlife.
Photo by Danielle Austen.

Much of the work on increasing security since the 9/11 attacks is secret, for obvious reasons. But some advances can be glimpsed, and they resemble scenes from an action movie.

At Stevens Institute of Technology in Hoboken, researchers have developed and built a system to detect underwater threats such as unmanned submersibles or human divers who might try to sneak into coastal waters or attack a ship heading to Port Newark/Port Elizabeth on Newark Bay.

The Navy cannot always use sonar to identify underwater threats because the sound waves interfere with wildlife, explains Dr. Michael Bruno, dean of the School of Engineering and Science. So Stevens engineers have come up with a way to detect suspicious underwater sounds and distinguish them from background noise. They experimented with a broad range of sounds in a huge water tank on the school’s Hoboken campus, developing algorithms to recognize anything out of the ordinary. Essentially, this is “see something, say something” applied beneath the waves. The system gives authorities a better chance of recognizing threats to ships or facilities in the port.

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