Research and Projects
Enhanced Detection and Interdiction
The Maritime Security Center develops technologies to enhance the situational awareness and surveillance capabilities of Department of Homeland Security component agencies such as the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard. Our tools used to detect underwater threats are being applied to new land-based applications in remote border areas.
Tools, Technologies, and Projects
Research PI: Dr. Alexander Sutin, Stevens Institute of Technology
Abstract: In this project, we plan to build and test in operational conditions a low-cost sensor suite for illegal water traffic detection that can work autonomously at sea using available platforms (oil rigs, navigation and communication buoys, and available shore structures). The proposed experimental sensor suite will use a full set of low-cost sensors and advanced methods of signal processing and data fusion including Marine radar, Underwater acoustic system prototype, Optical/IR Cameras, AIS receivers, Power supplies (solar panels and batteries), Prototype software for integrating target detection, tracking and localization data, and Communications.
The acoustic sensors will enable reliable detection at night and in fog conditions of small boats, Semi and Fully Submersibles, and boats covered by blue tarps, that other methods cannot detect reliably. A prototype software for the fusion of the data collected by all sensors will be developed to improve the probability of detection and decrease false alarms, as compared with separate sensors. The system will provide 24/7 surveillance and will inform the USCG (and their local enforcement agency partners) about detected threats. This prototype system will be deployed and tested for a few months in operational conditions at the USCG location at Sector Corpus Christi.
This project’s goal is to prove the concept of a practical low-cost sensor suite for assisting the USCG in their drug interdiction mission. At the conclusion of the project, the applicability of the work, the practicality of the system, and the ease of operation will be discussed with the USCG to determine transition requirements and tasks for a future phase.
The suggested low-cost sensor suite will effectively improve surveillance, detection, classification, and identification of vessels both on and below the water surface. That will emphasize illegal water traffic detection. The suggested sensor suite will also enhance USCG mission capabilities in providing persistent surveillance of ports, coastal approaches, maritime sanctuaries, protection of sunken vessels and wrecks, fisheries, and smuggling activities and will reduce personnel costs without degrading mission performance.
Research PI: Timothy Flynn, Stevens Institute of Technology
Abstract: Illegal boats carrying drugs, contraband, and illegal immigrants need to communicate with their accomplices on land or on sea. RF communication signals radiated from crews of illicit boats and by their accomplices can provide significant intelligence about the boat, its position, its intent and can even be used to detect and localize persons waiting for illegal delivery. Interception and localization of RF communication signals can be conducted by methods of Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) and Direction Finding. These methods have been used for about 120 years. The USCG currently employs a radio monitoring system (Rescue 21) that practically covers the whole US coastline. However, this system can only detect and localize distress calls in narrow frequency bands.
Currently, the USCG does not have an adequate system for Electronic Intelligence and localization of RF communication sources. In this project, we will investigate various opportunities for the development of a low-cost radio monitoring system that can detect and localize various RF emitters on boats and emitters on shore (cellular and satellite phones, maritime communication systems, two-way radios, CB radios, GPS trackers using cellular or radio communications, etc.). After a review of COTS available systems, theoretical modeling will be used for selecting optimal equipment and methods for several experimental setups. These setups will be investigated in field tests conducted at sea near the NJ shore to minimize the project cost. The tests conducted will allow determining the parameters needed for the setups to be developed and will allow us to select the most optimal method for future prototype development. We will also investigate the use of Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) for recording RF signals that can significantly extend the detection range. A Software Defined Radio (SDR) installed on the UAS will be tested for recording and localizing the RF signals. The deliverables for this project will be:
Building several set-ups to prove the concept of the RF surveillance system for the USCG applications in monitoring boat illegal activity.
Investigating a laboratory set-up and one at sea at the NJ shore. Finding system parameters and demonstration the applicability of the suggested solution for implementation in USCG operations.
Writing a final report that describes the test and test setups in full, including all research and analyses performed prior to the tests, the testing procedures, data collected, and findings. The report will also include recommendations for building a system optimized for USCG applications.
The applicability of the RF surveillance system, its practicality, and the ease of operation will be discussed with the USCG to determine transition requirements and tasks at the end of the project. A prototype of an optimal system may then be built and tested. The suggested low-cost RF surveillance methods will effectively improve surveillance, detection, classification, and identification of illegal vessels and their accomplices. The suggested system will also provide the opportunity to enhance the USCG mission capabilities in providing persistent surveillance of ports, coastal approaches, maritime sanctuaries, and smuggling activities and will reduce personnel costs without degrading mission performance.
Research PI: Randall Sandone, University of Illinois
Abstract: Most drawbridges are currently operated by onsite operators, but there is a growing request to convert onsite to remote operations, over a cyber-physical control network. This must be done in a way that all steps required for bridge operation are conducted in the correct sequence, with maximum priority to safety and security (physical and cyber). Operating movable bridges remotely requires Coast Guard approval, 33 CFR 117.42.
The number of bridge owners requesting Coast Guard approval to remotely operate their bridges is increasing and there is no real study conducted in this field that provides the requirements to install safe and reliable remote bridge operating systems. There is a lack of standards that prevent a uniform review process across all United States Coast Guard (USCG) Districts which leads to a potential risk to navigation and public safety. It is essential to eliminate the risk of cyberattack on remote bridge operating systems. The cybersecurity risks associated with remote bridge operating systems must be analyzed and cybersecurity requirements should be developed and mapped to standardized security controls. A National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cyber Security Framework Profile for remote bridge operating systems should be developed and conformance to the Profile should be considered mandatory for all remote bridge operations. This research project will provide risk management standards and guidelines that the USCG can use to develop policy and regulations for remote bridge operations by delivering the following documents and tools:
A landscape analysis report document detailing the scope of the movable bridge domain, the regulatory and policy environment governing the domain, and areas of concern regarding safety, security, and reliability/resilience of bridges that may be converted to remote operations
A document detailing a taxonomy for classifying movable bridge types operated by the US Maritime Transportation System
A document containing an inventory of bridges tagged by the taxonomy developed above
An annotated version of the NIST Risk Management Framework (in document form) customized to provide specific risk management guidance and best practices for the remote bridge operations domain including both physical and cyber risks
A document detailing a proposed NIST Cyber Security Profile for Remote Bridge Operations will include a mapping of the Profile security requirements to NIST SP 800-53 controls that must be implemented to meet the requirements.
As each bridge has unique requirements, it may not be possible to develop a standardized remote operating system for all applications. However, it will be useful to provide examples of reliable and safe remote bridge operating systems. This will be enabled by a taxonomy to be developed under the project.
Completed Projects in Year Five
Research PI: Dr. Manhar Dhanak, Florida Atlantic University
The principal objective of this research is to develop a predictive tool for assessment and planning for resiliency of ports on a regional scale to hurricane events. The aim is to develop a stakeholder-focused tool to improve regional resilience. Through assessment of consequences of hurricane events as well as use of knowledge, innovation, and education, we seek to support and improve the regional preparedness of interconnected port systems. Considerations will include network and inter-dependence of ports in a region. We will study and consider strategies for managing identified risks as well as identify any additional risks and strategies to manage these risks.
The methodology for achieving the objectives will be based on modeling and simulation aimed at determining regional consequences of disruption caused by a major hurricane event. A regional scale multimodal mesoscopic simulation of a regional port distribution network will be developed. Using mesoscopic simulation platform, a quantitative assessment of regional port distribution capacity will be developed. We will address and study how risks affect resilience and use the simulation model to improve resilience and study systems impacts (throughput, delays, etc.). In addition, we develop port operation simulation model to capture physical, operational and management complexities and their interactions. Stakeholders will be engaged in determining the scope, challenges, and requirements for the proposed effort, as well as gathering information on related previous and ongoing efforts.
PI: Dr. David Ebert, Purdue University
This research project will increase the understanding of information and intelligence integration within maritime operations, with a focus on advancements in technologies and command and control systems that utilize crowdsourced information.
The research project’s objective is to explore how social media analytics can most effectively lead to improved safety outcomes during natural disasters, emergencies, and other important safety events. We will achieve this objective through structured interviews and targeted questionnaires of the previous use of social media, and the Social Media Analytics and Reporting Toolkit (SMART) during the past several years, including during the 2017 hurricane season. The outcome will be a report on the U.S. Coast Guard’s use of SMART with lessons learned and suggestions for improvements and training.
Research PI: Dr. Hugh Roarty, Rutgers University
Abstract: One of the most valuable infrastructures in the United States is its Marine Transportation System (MTS). The ease of moving cargo and people within the MTS and beyond fuels the nation’s economy. Protecting the MTS is a necessary requirement due to its economic value as well as increasing threats from illegal smuggling, immigration, illegal fishing, oil spills, and, in some parts of the world, piracy. Moreover, the control of vessel traffic is often correlated to environmental protection issues, since vessels carrying dangerous goods (e.g., oil-tankers) can cause catastrophic environmental disasters. There exist various surveillance systems for the maritime domain and one of them is a Vessel Traffic Service (VTS) system to collect, process, and disseminate information on the marine operating environment and maritime vessel traffic in major U.S. ports and waterways. The existing microwave radars operated by the United States Coast Guard (USCG) within the VTS system do not provide reliable detection of small vessels, which can pose a threat to the MTS.
In this project, MSC researchers will travel and meet with Coast Guard personnel at the twelve Vessel Traffic Service centers and develop a needs analysis for the centers with respect to radar remote sensing. We will deliver a request for information (RFI) document that will allow the USCG to evaluate the state of the art in radar for small vessel detection while also meeting the VTS mission to monitor and advise vessels within the navigational waterways.
Research PI: Cris DeWitt and Matthew Mowrer, American Bureau of Shipping (ABS)
The objective of Maritime Cybersecurity research project is to develop a plan for assessing and addressing cybersecurity risks. Led by research PI, Cris DeWitt, American Bureau of Shipping (ABS), the two-year project aimed to answer the following questions:
1. What risk-based performance standards can be developed for cyber risk management of the Marine Transportation System (MTS)? How would performance standards inter-relate with other infrastructure sectors and their performance standards? How would performance standards inter-relate with existing safety and security management systems?
2. What type of criteria should be utilized to develop an academically rigorous framework for Cyber Policy for the MTS?
3. Based on a multi-node analysis, what are the critical Points of Failure within the cyber system supporting the MTS?
4. What are the critical requirements that should be considered when developing an academically rigorous and multi-use Maritime Cyber Range?
5. What methodologies can be utilized or invented to develop a framework to analyze a point of Failure Detection Methodology?
6. What methodologies can be employed to conduct a quantitative analysis of maritime cyber deterrent strategy effectiveness?
Research PI: Dr. Hans Graber, University of Miami
Dr. Hans Graber, Director, CSTARS at the University of Miami led the Center’s research in the area of Satellite synthetic aperture radar systems for enhanced maritime domain awareness (MDA). Open ocean satellite-based surveillance is a key capability in the development of MDA, particularly with respect to ship detection, classification and identification. Satellite synthetic aperture radars (SARs) have been demonstrated to be able to detect vessels of medium to large lengths. New satellite systems have improved imaging modes and spatial resolutions to allow detections of even smaller boats and non-emitting targets.
The Center’s Satellite MDA research included the testing of satellite data and products for integration into DHS’s Coastal Surveillance Systems operating at the Air & Marine Operations Center (AMOC).
Research PI: Dr. Manhar Dhanak, Florida Atlantic University
Dr. Manhar Dhanak at the Florida Atlantic University conducted research to develop a cost-effective port resiliency assessment and planning tool that can be adapted, through a choice of interchangeable event modules to assess and plan for evolving threats and hazards to a port and its waterside and landside distribution capacity. Outcomes from FAU's research included the modeling and simulation of man-made and natural disaster events at the Port of LA/Long Beach, Port of New Orleans and Port Everglades.
Research PI: Brant Mitchell, Stephenson Disaster Management Institute, Louisiana State University
MSC Research PIs from Louisiana State University (LSU) lead the Center's efforts to develop discussion-based tabletop exercises to support port facility emergency response and preparedness capabilities.
LSU worked in conjunction with the Port of New Orleans and USCG Sector New Orleans to develop and deliver a hypothetical active shooter exercise, and collaborated with Sector New York Area Maritime Security Committee to support a series of cyber threat exercises tailored to container operators, passenger ferries and oil and gas terminal operators.
The objective of the Center’s work in this area is to build a web-based repository of scenarios and exercise templates that can be used and customized by the USCG and port facility operators across the country.
Port Mapper Tool is a web-based visualization and decision support tool designed to aid maritime stakeholders in the event of U.S. port closures and disruptions. MSC researcher, Jim Rice, Deputy Director, MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics and his colleagues on the Port Resilience team, have developed the Port Mapper tool to assist stakeholders in developing response and resiliency plans in the event of port and supply chain disruptions. The tool allows end-users to conduct scenario-based analysis on the implications and repercussions of disruptions and closures of U.S. ports.
Magello combines easy-to-read, ultra-high-resolution (~100 m resolution), high-fidelity atmospheric and oceanic forecasts and datasets (e.g. air and water temperatures, currents, wind, sea state, and more) on a user-friendly Google Earth™ platform. Magello also integrates plume forecasts in the event of spills or contaminants in the rivers, ocean and air.
The ability to view several different environmental overlays simultaneously makes Magello a highly-customizable tool with a wide variety of security and emergency response applications.
Magello includes applications for the Center’s test beds in NY/NJ and the Caribbean.
History of Projects (2008 - 2014)
MSC Research PI: Alexander Sutin, Stevens Institute of Technology
Project Description: The acoustic part of the CSR research is aimed at the investigation of applying passive acoustic methods to surface and underwater threat detection, classification and tracking in coastal zones. Acoustics is the only tool that provides detection of underwater threats and Stevens work has concentrated on passive acoustic methods that are much simpler and cheaper than conventional sonar techniques mainly applied for underwater threat detection. These studies have resulted in improved understanding of the signatures – and the underlying physics responsible for the signatures – for a variety of surface and underwater threats. Using this understanding, Stevens researchers have developed unique passive acoustic sensing technology that has promise to provide near real-time, detection, characterization, and tracking capabilities in nearshore, harbor and inland waterway environments.
All vessels underway produce broadband and discrete noise that is a combination of hydrodynamic noise and noise generated by the ship’s crew and the operation of onboard machinery. The low-frequency underwater acoustic output generated by surface ships is a significant contributor to background ambient noise in the open sea and in littoral regions, near harbors and shipping lanes. With minimal acoustic attenuation at low frequencies, ship acoustic footprints extend over tens to hundreds of kilometers.
MSC Research PI: Jeff Nickerson, Stevens Institute of Technology
Project Description: Domestic shipping and waterside facilities are subject to numerous surface and underwater threats. Any size vessel, from a large container ship to a small boat, has the ability to act as a delivery vehicle for illicit materials and harmful activities. This necessitates the ability to integrate sensor information from many different sensors with the goal of providing accurate situation awareness.
The goal of this research is to understand how users process and identify the information available from the various sensors that are currently in place, with the intention of maximizing the utility of an interface. Specifically, this research seeks to make use of crowd experiments to identify which visualizations of data are effective in the identification and classification of vessels.
What types of visualizations or methods of information integration are best for rapidly conveying both key output data from Coast Guard’s SAROPS, and weather or environmental data streams? For example, should novel risk calculations that incorporate the calculations for the probability of detection and probability of success be available as additional, optional information layers?” In the end, these findings will help address more general questions regarding information integration, fusion, and visualization such as, “Do additional sources of information help? Does the manner in which the information is displayed matter? If so, what forms of display result in better decision making?” Along the way, we will continue to address the following question, “Can experiments performed on participants in a more general demographic be used to predict the responses of those who are, or who have been, involved in Coast Guard operational decision making?”
Development of a Dual-Use Surface Current Mapping and Vessel Detection Capability for Seasoned Multi-Static High Frequency Radar Networks
MSC Research PI: Scott Glenn, Rutgers University
Project Description: The NOAA-led U.S. Integrated Ocean Observing System (IOOS) has designed, is constructing, and has recently begun operating the more advanced portions of, a National HF Radar network focused on the real-time mapping of surface currents. The primary users of the resulting surface current maps are the U.S. Coast Guard for Search And Rescue (SAR) and the NOAA HAZMAT team for ocean spill-response. The IOOS Mid-Atlantic Region’s CODAR SeaSonde HF Radar Network, operated by Rutgers University, is the first region in the U.S. to achieve operational status by constructing and operating the end-to-end system that produces and links validated real-time surface current maps to the Coast Guard’s Search And Rescue Optimal Planning System (SAROPS).
Rutgers and CODAR Ocean Sensors, an academic-industry partnership established in 1997, have worked together for over a decade to expand the capabilities of compact CODAR HF Radars to include the dual-use application of detecting and tracking ships without compromising the network’s ability to map surface currents. Development prior to the establishment of CSR focused on the demonstration and evaluation of a non-real-time end-to-end system for dual-use vessel tracking in the New York Bight multi-frequency HF Radar testbed. Software demonstrations determined (a) that vessels could be detected, (b) that the detections could be associated with a known ship, and (c) that the associated detections could then be input to a range of tracking algorithms whose output produced tracks and predicted trajectories on a computer screen, providing useful over-the-horizon information to operators not available through any other source. Radar hardware development focused on developing network flexibility beyond monostatic backscatter operations, demonstrating (a) that bistatic and multi-static operations were possible with a shore based network, and (b) that buoy-based bistatic transmitters can be operated at all three of the commonly used HF Radar frequencies (5-6 MHz, 12-13 MHz, 24-25 MHz). The pre-CSR research demonstrated that the rate-limiting step in the development of a robust vessel tracking capability for any HF radar was going to be development of the initial vessel detection algorithm. This conclusion focused the initial MSC step in dual-use HF Radar development on the mathematical problem of identifying and extracting the radar return of a surface vessel hidden within a highly variable and noisy background, requiring additional detection algorithm development, testing and sensitivity analysis in a variety of environments with different noise characteristics.
MSC HF Radar research, coordinated between Rutgers University, CODAR Ocean Sensors, and the University of Puerto Rico Mayaguez, is currently focused on improving the vessel detection algorithm. Vessel tracking testbeds have been constructed in the urbanized mid-latitude environment of New York Bight, and in the tropical environment of Puerto Rico. Each test bed consists of, at a minimum, multiple HF radar systems operating in multi-static mode and shore based AIS transceivers to provide unencumbered access to validation data. In collaboration with CIMES, Rutgers, CODAR and University of Alaska have established an Arctic testbed in Barrow, Alaska.
MSC Research PI: Jim Rice, MIT
Project Description: PORT MAPPER provides end-users with the capability to visualize port locations and to conduct real-time and scenario based disruption analysis. Port Mapper is comprised of two formats, a web-based visualization app (pictured above) and a spreadsheet database tool. Developed by CSR researchers Jim Rice and Kai Trepte of MIT Center for Transportation & Logistics (CTL), Port Mapper allows end-users to look up every U.S. port or cargo type by Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code and identify options for redistribution of cargo in the event of port failures. Port Mapper is a decision support tool designed to assist maritime stakeholders as they develop response and resilience plans in the event of U.S. port closures and disruptions. The tool assists in answering the following questions: Where could cargo move to if a specific U.S. port was closed? What other ports handle the same cargo types as the disrupted port? What is the distance between the ports?
Utilized by U.S. Coast Guard senior leadership during Hurricane Sandy and the week-long closure of the Port of NY/NJ, Port Mapper enabled the USCG to visualize the redirection of cargo to alternative port locations.
MSC Research PI: Hans Graber, University of Miami
Project Description: The University of Miami’s Center for Southeastern Tropical Advanced Remote Sensing (CSTARS) leads the space-base applications and is developing new understanding and new processes for receiving and analyzing large maritime area data from multi-satellite and multi-frequency sensors such as Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and electro-optical (EO) sensors. Algorithms continue to be developed to employ the data to detect vessels, including small ships, in harbors, inland waterways, the coastal ocean and the high seas. Algorithms are also being developed to integrate this vessel detection information with ground-based systems such as Automatic Identification System (AIS).
Large-area, satellite-based surveillance is an essential capability in the development of Maritime Domain Awareness, particularly in ship detection, classification and identification. The goal of this aspect of the CSR effort involves detecting vessels, including small ships, in the coastal ocean and high seas or when approaching and leaving ports, sensitive coastal regions and denied access regions. When combined with existing vessel monitoring systems (e.g., AIS, expanding shore-based and harbor surveillance systems and an emerging space-based AIS system, this capability will provide the tools that the DHS can employ in ensuring global Maritime Domain Awareness, Marine Transportation System Security, and Maritime Enforcement.
Using CSTARS’ capability to collect satellite image data on a global scale from multi-satellite and multi-frequency sensors such as Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) and electro-optical (EO) satellites, will allow in an operational sense to monitor the entire global oceans. SAR satellites can operate day and night and in all weather conditions and thus allow surveillance of ports and choke points in different ocean basins, as well as monitoring vessel traffic inbound and outbound of ports and harbors. The recently launched satellite SARs have spotlight modes that provide spatial resolutions comparable to high-resolution optical sensors. Since the end of last year we also added a new optical satellite sensor, EROS-B, with high-resolution panchromatic images at 70 cm resolution.