2012 IR&D Annual Report

Next-Generation Neutrally Buoyant Sensors, 10-R8274

Principal Investigators
Gregory C. Willden
Ben A. Abbott
Ronald T. Green

Inclusive Dates:  12/12/11 – Current

Background — SwRI had previously developed the award-winning Neutrally Buoyant Sensor (NBS) system for automatic mapping of partially water-filled caves and conduits. The technology was successfully adapted for externally funded projects with two government clients; however, newer applications require improved processing capabilities and a more flexible and capable hardware architecture.

Photo: Customer-specific system built from toolkit components.
Customer-specific system built from toolkit components

Approach — Bringing together rapid prototyping capabilities for quickly building a waterproof housing and a small, powerful, flexible hardware system enabled the assembly of a toolkit that allows for the development and specialization of NBS systems to meet potential client needs. Competing constraints that guided the design of the toolkit elements include a low unit cost, having a modular system for rapid development and specialization, employing chirp correlation processing, and providing for flexible communication schemes.

Accomplishments — The team has successfully developed an improved platform for NBS development and specialization. The new components provide higher sampling rates, onboard storage and processing capabilities, as well as rapid prototyped housing components. As part of an externally funded project, the technology toolkit was applied in the creation of a specialized NBS system for mapping and inspection of culvert conduits for a current customer. Additional toolkit components are prepared for use in services contracts that are being pursued with a variety of potential clients.

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Southwest Research Institute® (SwRI®), headquartered in San Antonio, Texas, is a multidisciplinary, independent, nonprofit, applied engineering and physical sciences research and development organization with 9 technical divisions.