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NEWS | Jan. 29, 2021

SAVVi NRL Research Team Receives Science & Technology Cooperation Commendation

By Nicholas Pasquini, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory Corporate Communications

A team of researchers from the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) received a United States and United Kingdom Science and Technology Cooperation Commendation from the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Research and Engineering, Dec. 4.

The NRL team of experts with the Bio-inspired Adapted Techniques for Sensing, Actuation and Vocalization using Vibro-acoustics (BATSAVVi) program were commended for establishing bilateral collaboration between the U.S. Navy, U.S. Air Force Research Laboratory, and Defence Science and Technology Laboratory.

The NRL team, led by Don Sofge and Jason Geder, along with Joseph Lingevitch, Ph.D., Matthew Kelly, Daniel Lofaro, Ph.D., Loy McGuire, and Luke Calkins addressed research challenges in small, unmanned vehicle navigation and communication. They successfully proved novel, bio-inspired acoustic approaches to obstacle detection and avoidance within the program.

“It is an honor to be recognized for the work NRL, AFRL and Dstl accomplished to initiate the ongoing collaboration and demonstrate novel solutions for UAV navigation and communications,” said Geder, an aerospace engineer and NRL project co-principal investigator. “This research has fostered new collaborative research with partners in the UK on topics of mutual interest in bio-inspiration for unmanned systems, providing a foundation for future efforts in this area.”

BATSAVVi aims to apply passive echolocation and related techniques to unmanned aerial vehicles, utilizing self-generated vibration from the propulsion and control system to allow bio-inspired communication, localization, and situational awareness the same way bats use echolocation to sense the environment and communicate efficiently and effectively.

Geder said this technology could provide the Navy and Marine Corps with a low-size, weight and power solution to object relative navigation and covert communications for operations in confined and cluttered environments.

BATSAVVi leverages a recent discovery of certain species of non-echolocating fruit bats that are able to sense their surroundings by only listening and analyzing the echoes produced by the beating of their wings. After reading the inspirational work on these unusual species of bats, the team thought it might be possible to harness this capability for artificial systems.

BATSAVVi draws inspiration from bats using passive self-noise to enhance situational awareness, including relative localization, obstacle avoidance, and navigation, through intelligent acoustic processing.

“To use this principle to create a new capability in artificial systems, essentially UAVs that work similarly using the natural acoustic emissions of the motor-propeller systems on rotorcraft vehicles,” said Sofge, an NRL computer scientist and NRL project co-principal investigator. “It is phenomenal to take an idea from inception to laboratory demonstration in such a short period of time.”

The team conducted experimentation in NRL’s Laboratory for Autonomous Systems Research and collaborated with researchers across the Navy Center for Applied Research in Artificial Intelligence, the Laboratories for Computational Physics and Fluid Dynamics, the Acoustics Signal Processing and Systems Branch, and the Off-Board Countermeasures Branch.

“We are encouraged by this recognition and commendation by OSD and the Ministry of Defence in the UK, and look forward to expanding upon our initial successes to further this line of research, and to create new capabilities for larger UAV systems,” Sofge said. “It has been a joy to work with such talented collaborators across NRL and with researchers at AFRL, and Dstl in the UK.”

The Naval Innovative Science and Engineering/Section 219 BATSAVVi program began in 2017 under the Genesis II effort to further bilateral collaboration between the U.S. and UK in the research area of Biologically Inspired Technologies for UAVs.

About the U.S. Naval Research Laboratory

NRL is a scientific and engineering command dedicated to research that drives innovative advances for the U.S. Navy and Marine Corps from the seafloor to space and in the information domain. NRL is located in Washington, D.C. with major field sites in Stennis Space Center, Mississippi; Key West, Florida; Monterey, California, and employs approximately 2,500 civilian scientists, engineers and support personnel.

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