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FarSounder to Develop Sonar for High Speed Collision Avoidance

FarSounder, Inc., of Warwick, Rhode Island, has been awarded a $2 million grant from the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to develop a long range/high speed navigation and obstacle avoidance sonar.

The company will develop a forward looking navigation and collision avoidance sonar system that provides real-time 3-dimensional location (bearing, range, depth) of obstacles at distances up to 3.2km (2 miles) for vessels traveling at up to 65 km/hr (35 knots). This project opens up new possibilities in marine navigation by addressing the economic, safety and environmental problems associated with large vessel operations.

Cheryl M. Zimmerman, CEO of FarSounder, Inc., confirmed that stationary dredging equipment is an item of concern in the development of this new technology. She told IDR that within a half hour of the distribution of this news release on the morning of September 27, the company web site,, received so many hits that it went down for a period of time.

The 2.75 year, $2 million project will develop a sonar system capable of detecting obstacles at a distance sufficient for large and/or high speed vessels to avoid obstacles. There is no other technology capable of providing navigation and obstacle avoidance information out to these significant distances and speeds. There are none that are even capable of competing with FarSounder's existing short range, low speed products, according to a FarSounder press release. FarSounder now produces a forward-looking navigation and optical avoidance sonar, the FS-3DT (dual transmitter) that can find obstacles to a quarter of a mile, 440 meters, designed for vessels traveling 10 to 20 knots.

Development of the high speed system will be an immense advancement in marine technology, navigational efficiency, and safety.

The project requires important technological innovations, including the development of high-speed signal processing algorithms to compensate for the ship's motion, the changing acoustic environment and background noise at high speeds and development of other signal processing methodologies which would extend the state of the art for sonar signal processing. Based on industry trends, FarSounder estimates that when fully deployed, such a system could reap economic benefits of up to $500 million a year through increased efficiency, reduced insurance costs, and reduced accident rates, in addition to the benefits of increased passenger safety and reduced environmental damage.

Used on commercial, government and private ships for obstacle avoidance and shallow water navigation, FarSounder FS-3 sonars are capable of generating a complete three-dimensional image of the sea floor and in-water objects at navigationally significant ranges with a single ping. They offer visualization of a clear, easy-to-understand 3D sonar image. This advanced sonar technology revolutionizes marine navigation, especially in shallow areas. FarSounder's technology is also appropriate for security and defense applications.

The NIST Advanced Technology Program provides cost-shared funding to industry-led teams to help advance particularly challenging, high-risk research and development projects that have the potential to spark important, broad-based economic or social benefits for the United States. The program supports projects that industry cannot fully fund on its own because of significant technical risks. ATP awards are made on the basis of rigorous, competitive peer review of the scientific and technical merit of each proposal. The program accelerates enabling technology research, but does not support product development work.

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