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Acoustic Pingers in Use by Government Agencies and Marine Industry

Tags: pr1, pingers

Ocean Power Technologies' autonomous PowerBuoy with Fishers SFP-1 pinger attached.
Inset photo - ASL Environmental's faithful mascot stands ready to deliver their SFP-1 pinger.

Government agencies and marine service companies are finding a variety of uses for acoustic pingers and pinger receivers. Pingers are signaling devices that can be attached to an underwater site or instrument package. Using the pinger receiver, a gun-like instrument carried by a diver, the sonar signal transmitted by the pinger can easily be detected and followed to its source.

One company employing this technology is Ocean Power Technologies (OPT) in New Jersey. As part of a contract with the US Navy, OPT has developed an autonomous buoy that generates power from waves and stores it internally. The stored electricity powers sensors and other equipment mounted on the buoy. Typical payloads are detection systems to scan areas for intruders, communications relays, environmental monitoring instruments, and oceanographic observation platforms. The impact of severe weather on the buoy is not a concern; in initial testing it rode over 50 foot waves generated by a passing hurricane with ease. However to ensure the equipment can be recovered in the event of a catastrophe, such as collision with a passing ship, the buoy is equipped with JW Fishers SFP-1 single frequency pinger.

Law enforcement and military diving units also utilize pingers and pinger receivers. They attach the acoustic signaling devices to an underwater crime scene or evidence, submerged vehicles or sunken vessels, monitoring instruments, mines and underwater explosives. Pingers allow the group deploying these devices to keep track of all their locations. If an enemy’s device is discovered, the diver can drop a pinger to mark its location. Using multifrequency pingers, like Fishers MFP-1, allows multiple pingers to be deployed in the same general area. A diver equipped with the pinger receiver can easily pinpoint all the individual pingers, as every one transmits a difference frequency.

The Naval Underwater Warfare Center (NUWC) in is one of many military organizations adapting pingers to their applications. The Newport, Rhode Island facility originated 142 years ago as the Naval Torpedo Station. Part of their mission is to develop and test “submarine warfare systems and other systems associated with the undersea battlespace”. To ensure all devices undergoing open water testing are recoverable, they are equipped with a pinger. Another of the Navy’s applications is for use on autonomous underwater vehicles that perform deep water search and survey operations. JW Fishers customized their SFP-1 pingers to meet the Navy’s special requirements. Researcher Ben Potter comments, “We’ve attached one of the SFP-1 units to our REMUS AUV. Fishers willingness to accommodate the needs of our program has been outstanding.”

ASL Environmental Sciences in British Columbia, Canada provides a full range of marine services including project design, planning, consulting, instrument deployment and recovery. In addition, they also have a substantial lease pool of oceanographic equipment and a variety of bottom frames to attach instrumentation. To keep track of the instruments, they attach an SFP-1 pinger. When the time comes for recovery, if the equipment is not in the location where it was deployed, ASL can easily find it by detecting the sonar signal being emitted from the pinger. Many receivers, like Fishers PR-1, have a hydrophone attachment that can be deployed from the boat, making recovery time significantly faster.

Albatross Marine Technologies in Baleares, Spain is a manufacturer of marine instrumentation. Their product line includes drifting buoys that track and monitor coastal currents. The company uses the MFP-1 pinger to aid in relocation should one go missing. Albatross’s Daniel Roig Broman reports using a signaling device makes finding the buoys a much easier task, adding “this pinger works well for us.”.