LCS Unmanned Vehicle Sensor Data Compression
Navy SBIR 2014.1 - Topic N141-048
NAVSEA - Mr. Dean Putnam - dean.r.putnam@navy.mil
Opens: Dec 20, 2013 - Closes: Jan 22, 2014

N141-048 TITLE: LCS Unmanned Vehicle Sensor Data Compression

TECHNOLOGY AREAS: Sensors, Electronics, Battlespace

ACQUISITION PROGRAM: PMS420, LCS Mission Packages.

RESTRICTION ON PERFORMANCE BY FOREIGN CITIZENS (i.e., those holding non-U.S. Passports): This topic is "ITAR Restricted". The information and materials provided pursuant to or resulting from this topic are restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120 - 130, which control the export of defense-related material and services, including the export of sensitive technical data. Foreign Citizens may perform work under an award resulting from this topic only if they hold the "Permanent Resident Card", or are designated as "Protected Individuals" as defined by 8 U.S.C. 1324b(a)(3). If a proposal for this topic contains participation by a foreign citizen who is not in one of the above two categories, the proposal will be rejected.

OBJECTIVE: The objective is to develop an innovative data compression capability for the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) Unmanned Vehicleís sensor data that can send large amounts of sensor data over the horizon using a limited bandwidth High Frequency (HF) radio link.

DESCRIPTION: The LCS deploys multiple Unmanned Vehicles in support of the interchangeable Mission Packages. The Multiple Vehicle Communications System (MVCS) provides LCS Mission Packages with the capability to simultaneously communicate with multiple Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USVs) and surfaced Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) by providing common data link and network communication services. MVCS uses a High Frequency (HF) radio link for OTH communications between the LCS seaframe and the Remote Multi-Mission Vehicle (RMMV).

The LCS Mine Countermeasures (MCM) Mission Package has a requirement to send high resolution sonar and camera images Over the Horizon (OTH) from the RMMV to the LCS seaframe using the limited bandwidth HF radio link. An image compression capability is required which is both bandwidth efficient and error tolerant (ref 1-3). Low signal-to-noise ratios, strong rapidly varying multi-path, and noise interference mean that relatively high error rates can be expected. Unique research and development will be required to achieve the required data compression for sonar images due to the speckle noise content. An innovative compression technique is needed to compress the RMMV sonar and camera data so that high resolution images can be transmitted over the limited bandwidth, error prone, HF radio link. The image compression solution can be in the form of hardware, software, or both.

An improved data compression capability for communications between LCS seaframes and unmanned vehicles will allow for more efficient use of valuable communications bandwidth and reduce the cost of the MVCS. High resolution sonar data is required in order to perform the mine identification mission with the RMMV. The data rate required to transmit the high resolution sonar data exceeds what the MVCS Over the Horizon (OTH) datalink can support. Compressing the sonar data so that it can be transmitted via the MVCS OTH communications datalink will improve performance by enabling the RMMV identification mission to be conducted at over the horizon ranges. It will also improve safety since the LCS unmanned vehicles donít have an autonomous obstacle avoidance capability. Increasing the resolution and frame rate of obstacle avoidance images will improve the operatorís ability to avoid obstacles.

The data compression requirement is 8:1 or greater lossless or visually lossless compression for the AN/AQS-20 sensor images and RMMV obstacle avoidance camera images. State of the art compression algorithms for sonar images currently provide 2:1 lossless and 4:1 visually lossless compression.

The Phase I and II efforts will not require access to classified information. If need be, data of the same level of complexity as secured data will be provided to support Phase I and II work. The Phase III effort will likely require secure access, and NAVSEA will support the contractor for personnel and facility certification for secure access.

PHASE I: The selected company will develop a concept for compressing the AN/AQS-20 sonar images and RMMV obstacle avoidance camera images that meet the requirements described above. The company will demonstrate the feasibility of the concept in meeting Navy needs and will establish that the concept can be developed into a useful product for the Navy. Feasibility will be established by analytical modeling and feasibility testing. The small business will provide a Phase II development plan that must addresses technical risk reduction and provides performance goals and key technical milestones.

PHASE II: Based on the results of Phase I and the Phase II development plan, the small business will develop an image compression (hardware and software) prototype for evaluation. The prototype will be evaluated to determine its capability in meeting the performance goals defined in Phase II development plan and the Navy requirements for data compression. System performance will be demonstrated through prototype evaluation with AN/AQS-20 sonar data and RMMV mast camera data. Evaluation results will be used to refine the prototype into an initial design that will meet Navy requirements. The company will prepare a Phase III development plan to transition the technology to Navy use.

PHASE III: The company will be expected to support the Navy in transitioning the technology for Navy use. The company will develop image compression hardware and software according to the Phase III development plan for evaluation to determine its effectiveness in an operationally relevant environment. The company will support the Navy for test and validation to certify and qualify the system for Navy use.

PRIVATE SECTOR COMMERCIAL POTENTIAL/DUAL-USE APPLICATIONS: Data compression of sonar images has private sector commercial application for storage and transmission of images. Sonar is widely used in oil and gas exploration, and in medical imaging.

REFERENCES:
1. Collins, T. & Atkins, P. " Error-tolerant SPIHT image compression", IEEE Proceedings Vision, Image & Signal Processing, Volume 148, Issue 3, Jun 2001.

2. Tomasi, B. & Toni, L. & Casari, P.& Preisig, J. & Zorzi, M. "A Study on the SPIHT Image Coding Technique for Underwater Acoustic Communications".
http://www.dei.unipd.it/~zorzi/ONR2011/WUWNET2011_SPIHT.pdf

3. Higdon, Thomas. "The Compression of Synthetic Aperture Sonar Images", May 2008, Free Ebooks.
http://free.ebooks6.com/The-Compression-of-Synthetic-Aperture-Sonar-Images-pdf-e31801.pdf

KEYWORDS: Data compression; image compression; sonar image compression; lossless image compression; visually lossless image compression; sonar image compression algorithms

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