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A rail system for circular synthetic aperture sonar imaging and acoustic target strength measurements: Design/operation/preliminary results
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A 22 m diameter circular rail, outfitted with a mobile sonar tower trolley, was designed, fabricated, instrumented with underwater acoustic transducers, and assembled on a 1.5 m thick sand layer at the bottom of a large freshwater pool to carry out sonar design and target scattering response studies. The mobile sonar tower translates along the rail via a drive motor controlled by customized LabVIEW software. The rail system is modular and assembly consists of separately deploying eight circular arc sections, measuring a nominal center radius of 11 m and 8.64 m arc length each, and having divers connect them together in the underwater environment. The system enables full scale measurements on targets of interest with 0.1° angular resolution over a complete 360° aperture, without disrupting target setup, and affording a level of control over target environment conditions and noise sources unachievable in standard field measurements. In recent use, the mobile cart carrying an instrumented sonar tower was translated along the rail in 720 equal position increments and acoustic backscatter data were acquired at each position. In addition, this system can accommodate both broadband monostatic and bistatic scattering measurements on targets of interest, allowing capture of target signature phenomena under diverse configurations to address current scientific and technical issues encountered in mine countermeasure and unexploded ordnance applications. In the work discussed here, the circular rail apparatus is used for acoustic backscatter testing, but this system also has the capacity to facilitate the acquisition of magnetic and optical sensor data from targets of interest. A brief description of the system design and operation will be presented along with preliminary processed results for data acquired from acoustic measurements conducted at the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Panama City Division Test Pond Facility. [Work Supported by the U.S. Office of Naval Research and The Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program.]
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