This year was my third attendance at the Partners in Environmental Technology Technical Symposium & Workshop in Washington DC. The conference is about building partnerships between the Department of Defense and the private sector to develop technologies that meet strategic environmental needs for the military. Many of the attendees at the conference have received funding through this program and are there to present their research and share ideas.
As usual we presented our most recent achievements in underwater munitions detection. Despite the fact that marine UXO survey is only one small aspect of what we work on, we have continued to make significant progress in our ability to efficiently perform sophisticated underwater surveys. Detecting munitions underwater is not a trivial task. In fact, we were the only people at the conference who were presenting data from a real live underwater munitions survey. The poster I worked on focused on our new UXO detection system that we call the TEMA. TEMA stands for Towed Electromagnetic Array and I am sure I will talk more about that system as we continue to test it and prepare for surveys this year.
Remediating munitions from former DOD sites is a major liability for the military. Hundreds of millions of dollars are spent each year cleaning up old sites. The vast majority of the effort has been spent on terrestrial sites. The “tried and true” method has been to detect and dig up every magnetic anomaly in the area to be remediated. This is a very costly process. Thus the holy grail of geophysical surveying has become the ability to determine if a magnetic anomaly really represents a UXO or just a piece of scrap metal. With that ability we could save millions of dollars at every site.
The DOD has funded some researchers to do just that through the partners in environmental technology program. There are now systems and methodologies available to almost flawlessly classify the detected anomalies as a specific UXO or scrap. It has been amazing to watch the system work over the last few years, to watch the concepts and prototype systems be developed, tested, and refined.
One of the best things about this program is that it funds applied research that meets specific needs of the DOD. Munition remediation is only one small part of the program. Personally I enjoy seeing all the developing technologies related to energy efficiency. I spent quite a bit of time talking with exhibitors about “smart electrical grids,” LED lighting, solar capture devises, photo voltaic arrays, hybrid trucks and other fascinating topics. DOD facilities can act as full scale test beds for energy saving technology that will eventually be implemented in our neighborhoods.