September 28, 2006 QinetiQ recently made the first private, non-military sale of its Cerberus high performance diver and swimmer detection sonar system into the yacht market. The system will be deployed to protect a large private yacht and its passengers while at anchor or alongside in harbour. Cerberus, designed to provide early warning of underwater threats to ships and other high value assets, has previously been trailed with naval forces around the world and is currently under extended evaluation with the US Navy. A Cerberus unit will be accommodated in a specially designed moon-pool built into the hull of the private yacht and is expected to go into service in early 2007. Cerberus is able to detect and locate swimmers and divers at ranges exceeding 800 metres, providing operators with sufficient time to establish whether that individual represents a threat and decide upon an appropriate response.
This sale follows the successful deployment of Cerberus in a non-military environment for the first time. Cerberus formed part of the measures to protect the America’s Cup, the world’s most famous and prestigious yachting trophy, during this summer’s ranking events in Valencia. Two sonar units were deployed under a leasing arrangement.
Two unauthorised divers were detected during the America’s Cup deployment – although it transpired that they posed no security threat. The two Cerberus units were positioned in such a way to detect any divers or swimmers approaching the entrance to the Port of Valencia, and also inside the inner harbour basin.
Andrew Sleigh, Group Managing Director of QinetiQ’s Defence and Technology Sector, said: “Both the yacht system sale and the America’s Cup deployment represent significant milestones for QinetiQ’s Cerberus business. I am encouraged by the opportunities offered in the civil marine sector as well as our core defence market and discussions are continuing with a number of other potential customers.”
Cerberus was specifically designed and developed over the past four years to address growing concerns about underwater security threats. The system can be deployed as a single unit to provide 360° cover for ship protection by being slung from the side of the vessel or built into the vessel’s hull. Alternatively, a number of units can be attached to the seabed in a cordon to provide harbour security and channel protection. Deployed in this manner, the detection range is extended to one kilometre and beyond.
The main technical challenge in safeguarding ships and harbours from such threats has been the difficulty in locating a human diver because of the lack of a strong sonar target return. Extremely limited underwater visibility greatly reduces the effect of underwater surveillance techniques relying on cameras operating in the visible band. Cerberus’ detection capability represents a significant step forward in tackling this challenge.
Cerberus also provides an inbuilt target classification response enabling operators to decide on an appropriate response to a situation. The sonar returns provided by the target when using Cerberus are interpreted by the sophisticated tracking system to make basic decisions on the nature of the approaching target. For example, the system will distinguish between schools of fish and ships wakes, divers on open circuit breathing apparatus and stealth divers on rebreathers. Even tidal flotsam and jetsam can be separated from the target field, helping to reduce false alarms.