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Details of Grant 

EPSRC Reference: EP/S033238/1
Title: Sub-THz Radar sensing of the Environment for future Autonomous Marine platforms - STREAM
Principal Investigator: Gashinova, Professor M
Other Investigators:
Cherniakov, Professor M
Researcher Co-Investigators:
Project Partners:
ASV Global (UK) BAE Systems Jaguar Land Rover
Raymarine Limited Sea Mammal Research Unit University of Southampton
Department: Electronic, Electrical and Computer Eng
Organisation: University of Birmingham
Scheme: Standard Research
Starts: 01 July 2019 Ends: 31 December 2022 Value (£): 854,175
EPSRC Research Topic Classifications:
Instrumentation Eng. & Dev. RF & Microwave Technology
EPSRC Industrial Sector Classifications:
Aerospace, Defence and Marine Information Technologies
Related Grants:
EP/S032851/1
Panel History:
Panel DatePanel NameOutcome
09 Apr 2019 Engineering Prioritisation Panel Meeting 9 and 10 April 2019 Announced
Summary on Grant Application Form
The impending era of autonomous shipping will create a revolution in maritime navigation and mission planning which has many parallels with the revolution which is already underway in the automotive world and will impact all aspects of vessel design, manufacture and operation, reducing costs and environmental impacts. The key enabler will be the role of advanced electronics to provide the platform with full intelligence to facilitate autonomous operation with sensing and processing capabilities superior to those of a human.

Merchant shipping companies announced autonomous vessels in 2018 [http://spectrum.ieee.org/transportation/marine/forget-autonomous-cars-autonomous-ships-are-almost-here]. However, in addition to large autonomous ships, there is a growing, potentially huge, market for small/medium agile vessels, demanding new sensing capabilities to provide situational awareness of the proximate environment. Their requirements differ significantly from those of large ships: (i) for the safety of the boat, humans or sea animals in/on the water, robust all-weather day/night detection and classification of small objects is required at ranges of up to ~300 m - too close for large ships to manoeuvre, (ii) large waves are more hazardous for smaller boats so wave profiling is critical for adaptation to the dynamic environment and safe path planning.

We assert that the key sensor modality to satisfy these requirements is novel sub-THz radar operating in the 140-340 GHz frequency spectrum. By its nature, radar is robust to the conditions that limit electro-optical (EO) sensors, but the proposed short wavelength and wide bandwidth can bring key capabilities unavailable in traditional marine radar: (i) imagery that is closer to familiar video, able to exploit the vast legacy of image processing algorithms; (ii) greatly improved cross-range resolution from a small sensor, leading to significant improvements in detection and classification of small objects and compatibility with small vessels; (iii) 3D imagery that can highlight objects; (iv) sensitivity to surface texture which will facilitate image segmentation and, ultimately, enable detection of anomalies within the mapped scene; (v) adaptability of the waveform for enhanced scene assessment in the spatio-temporal domain.

This proposal falls under EPSRC's Sensors and Instrumentation theme, addressing the challenge of providing new and essential capabilities for situational awareness for small marine craft, ensuring safe and efficient operation in dynamic sea conditions. This will be achieved by creating a sub-THz intelligent radar, delivering superior imagery, precise measurements and cognitive scene assessment by adapting radar parameters and using novel data processing including: (i) two-stage data assessment to detect and classify objects as anomalies in the '5D descriptor space' of range, cross-range, elevation, Doppler and micro-Doppler and (ii) mapping the dynamic 3D sea surface in real time. This will enable reliable detection of hazards including small surface or semi-submerged objects, hazardous seas at ranges up to ~300 m with high spatial and temporal fidelity.

The proposal comprises a wide scope of essential research stages: phenomenological studies of sub-THz scattering and propagation above the sea surface, comprehensive analysis of radar signatures and imagery of marine objects and environment and development of cognitive sensing strategy and signal processing to provide situational awareness.

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Organisation Website: http://www.bham.ac.uk