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NEWS | June 10, 2013

Dr. Brian Houston Receives Arthur E. Bisson Naval Technology Achievement Award

By Daniel Parry, U.S. Naval Research Laboratory Corporate Communications

U.S. Naval Research Laboratory (NRL) research scientist, Dr. Brian Houston, received the Office of Naval Research, Dr. Arthur E. Bisson Prize for Naval Technology Achievement Award, April 24, 2013, for his exceptional technical and engineering leadership in the development, demonstration, and transition of a new broadband underwater mine hunting sonar.

In honor of the late Dr. Arthur E. Bisson, nuclear physicist and former director of science and technology for the Office of Naval Research (ONR), the award recognizes individuals who have successfully translated research findings into substantive fleet programs that meet critical Navy requirements.

Head of the Physical Acoustics Branch at the Naval Research Laboratory, Houston is widely recognized as having developed exciting new technology in structural acoustics detection and classification and unique world-class laboratories for physical acoustic research. Most recently, Houston's team developed, and is transitioning to the fleet, the first broadband sonar for high performance detection and classification of in-water mines using novel synthetic aperture-based target strength measurements and structural acoustics features.

The purpose of the system is to address the Navy's need to reliably detect and identify undersea volume and bottom mines in high-clutter environments with low false alarm rates. The Knifefish system is a part of the Littoral Combat Ship (LCS) mine countermeasure (MCM) mission package targeted to reduce risks to personnel by operating in potential minefield regions as an off-board sensor, allowing host ships to remain at safe distances outside minefield boundaries.

This exciting new technology brings together physics-based algorithms, synthetic aperture processing techniques, a new class of wide-band acoustic projector, Bayesian classifiers, and Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) to provide the capability to make very precise at sea measurements of target strength as a function of frequency and aspect. Also known as acoustic color and scattering cross-section, acoustic target strength provides high performance features for classification that are robust at long ranges and in challenging acoustic environments. Originally developed for mine countermeasures, this new technology is also being applied to shallow water Anti-Submarine Warfare (ASW).

Houston's accomplishments are additionally demonstrated by the recent creation of the first generation Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) Data Logger for the U.S. Marine Corps and U.S. Army. Working in collaboration with the Material Sciences Division at NRL, Houston's team played a central role in the development and transition of this technology to the 101st Airborne 'Screaming Eagles' Army Forces Command in Afghanistan and forward deployed Marines in Iraq.

Houston started at NRL as a student in the 1980s. After receiving a doctorate in physics in 1989 from the American University, Washington, D.C., he began work at NRL as a research physicist. With application areas that include submarine stealth and mine countermeasures and anti-submarine warfare, Houston's research has covered a range of subjects from the structural acoustics of underwater and in-air structures to the physical acoustics of micro- and nanostructures.

During his tenure at NRL, Houston has assembled state-of-the-art laboratories at NRL that include the Laboratory for Structural Acoustics (LSA) and laboratories for microacoustics, in-air structural acoustics, and nanomechanics. Houston has produced important original scientific and technological work in these areas and has developed unique experimental methods that have been applied in the laboratory and at-sea. Houston extended the use of these laboratories to other problems including the structural acoustics of mines, virtual sonar, wireless hull-based sensing, surface ships, and torpedoes.

Presently, Houston and his team are developing UUV based technologies that include extensions of the Knifefish technology to much longer ranges for MCM as well as advanced autonomy for UUVs. Houston's team is also applying this new technology to shallow water ASW. This more recent development provides the Navy with the technical foundation for high performance detection and classification of difficult ASW targets using active sonar on UUVs in challenging environments.

In addition to being a past recipient of the Dr. Delores M. Etter Top Scientists and Engineers of the Year Award, Navy Meritorious Civilian Service Award, National Defense Industrial Association (NDIA) Undersea Warfare Division Bronze Medal Award, and several NRL Technology Transfer Awards, Houston is also a Fellow of the Acoustical Society of America (ASA) and member of the American Institute of Physics (AIP) and Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE).

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