Oil spill: could modified sonar help detect concentrations of undersea oil threatening wildlife and tourism in Gulf of Mexico?

By John Keller

Posted by John Keller

I'm starting to hear some interesting things from naval defense contractors about gauging the magnitude of the underwater oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico resulting from the 20 April explosion of the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon offshore oil rig.

Two things: first, sonar equipped with modified frequencies may be able to locate and measure concentrations not only of spilled crude oil, but also of heavy metal-laden toxic dispersants used in attempts to break up the oil as it spews from the stricken well. Second, this is likely to be WAY worse than people can even imagine.

Naval contractors are starting to talk about how to use modified sonobuoys dropped from U.S. Navy P-3 anti-submarine warfare aircraft to get a handle on just how large this oil spill really is. The problem, it seems, is that BP remains in charge of the cleanup, and has been less than eager to involve the U.S. Navy.

This oil spill disaster has turned into a bureaucratic mess that prevents the best resources from coming to bear. Case in point: the U.S. Coast Guard is one of the point agencies responsible for responding to maritime disasters close to the U.S. coastline like this. The Coast Guard is just now getting around to discussing contracts just to measure the rate of flow of oil into the Gulf.

The problem with the Coast Guard -- aside from its lack of a sense of urgency -- is this agency does not have adequate resources to deal with a disaster of this magnitude, while the U.S. Navy does. Sounds like it's high time to get the Navy involved ... that is, if it's not already too late for the Gulf Coast.

So why do we need modified sonar to find concentrations of oil? Doesn't crude oil float to the surface, since it's lighter than water?

The answer is, not always. Experts predict there are huge, lake-sized concentrations of crude oil traveling on sub-sea currents east and west along the Gulf's continental shelf. Some experts say that some of the oil starting to reach land is coming ashore without ever breaking the surface.

Think about that. If this is the case, and I have no reason to doubt it, then many of those oil booms deployed now and in the future will be useless. Worse, a sub-sea oil slick invisible from the surface is easier to ignore for federal authorities more interested in ignoring this disaster instead of solving it.

It's time to get the resources of the U.S. military involved in this maritime disaster. If the oil spill in the Gulf isn't a national emergency, then I don't know what is. Get the Navy, get it's P-3s, its sonobuoys, its surface ships, and its submarines to work on this disaster. Do it now.

Subscribe

Follow me on Twitter

Join the PennWell Aerospace and Defense Media Group on Linkedin at http://bit.ly/9MXl9

Become a fan of Military & Aerospace Electronics on Facebook at http://bit.ly/1VGM0Q

Post your aerospace and defense-related material to the #milaero community on Twitter. Use the #milaero hashtag.

Easily post a comment below using your Linkedin, Twitter, Google or Facebook account.

Previous Blog Posts

Capital Hill budget deal could restore tens of billions of dollars to the Pentagon

Tue Dec 17 13:15:00 CST 2013

Hacker drone story a cautionary tale about the need for unmanned vehicle data security

Tue Dec 10 09:46:00 CST 2013

Lack of money for systems upgrades threatens to maintain wind-farm radar dead spots

Tue Dec 03 10:36:00 CST 2013

Engineering support contracts indicate the Pentagon is sinking into the Mothball Strategy

Tue Nov 26 06:57:00 CST 2013

The revenge of COTS: an ageing commercial technology base complicates military supply chain

Tue Nov 19 08:53:00 CST 2013

Navy's newest destroyers evolve to fill traditional battleship roles

Tue Nov 12 11:54:00 CST 2013

International suspicions of U.S. encryption technology putting defense companies in a bind

Tue Nov 05 11:24:00 CST 2013

Defense industry left guessing as Army struggles forward with an unclear mission

Tue Oct 29 09:45:00 CDT 2013

These are tough times for the combat vehicle and vetronics industries

Tue Oct 22 04:22:00 CDT 2013

Is the government shutdown a harbinger of more ominous things to come?

Tue Oct 15 11:21:00 CDT 2013

Government shutdown reduces military contracting, increasing pressure on U.S. defense industry

Mon Oct 07 12:17:00 CDT 2013

Potential good news: has U.S. defense spending finally bottomed-out?

Tue Oct 01 13:02:00 CDT 2013

Is robotics revolution the first glimpse of a fundamental change in human evolution?

Tue Sep 24 09:46:00 CDT 2013

Obsolescent parts: are we enhancing military readiness or creating a hollow force?

Tue Sep 17 15:46:00 CDT 2013

For the high-tech warfighter, the future of electronics-laden uniforms is here

Tue Sep 10 11:26:00 CDT 2013

New generation of embedded computing thermal management in development at GE

Tue Sep 03 09:44:00 CDT 2013

Trading bus stops for credit cards: how far embedded computing has come in three decades

Tue Aug 27 10:59:00 CDT 2013

Unmanned vehicle industry stands at the doorstep of a fundamental transformation

Tue Aug 20 11:09:00 CDT 2013

AUVSI 2013, one of the biggest unmanned vehicles shows in the world, opens this week in Washington

Tue Aug 13 05:35:00 CDT 2013

The Washington Post, under Jeff Bezos, could lead the way for media in the 21st Century

Tue Aug 06 09:47:00 CDT 2013

Are costs and vulnerabilities making military leaders nervous about satellite communications?

Tue Jul 30 11:07:00 CDT 2013

Unmanned aircraft carrier that travels beneath the waves may be in the Navy's future

Tue Jul 23 05:20:00 CDT 2013

Electronic warfare programs kick into high gear with a flurry of contract activity

Tue Jul 16 08:03:00 CDT 2013

How vulnerable are U.S. Navy vessels to advanced anti-ship cruise missiles?

Tue Jul 09 07:03:00 CDT 2013

First came VHSIC, then came MIMIC, and now comes ACE to push electronics technology

Tue Jul 02 09:16:00 CDT 2013

The Mil & Aero Bloggers

John Keller is editor-in-chief of Military & Aerospace Electronics magazine, which provides extensive coverage and analysis of enabling electronic and optoelectronic technologies in military, space, and commercial aviation applications. A member of the Military & Aerospace Electronics staff since the magazine's founding in 1989, Mr. Keller took over as chief editor in 1995.

Ernesto Burden is the publisher of PennWell’s Aerospace & Defense Media Group, including Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence and Avionics Europe.  He’s a father of four, a runner, and an avid digital media enthusiast with a deep background in the intersection of media publishing, digital technology, and social media. He can be reached at ernestob@pennwell.com and on Twitter @aero_ernesto.

Courtney E. Howard, as executive editor, enjoys writing about all things electronics and avionics in PennWell’s burgeoning Aerospace and Defense Group, which encompasses Military & Aerospace Electronics, Avionics Intelligence, the Avionics Europe conference, and much more. She’s also a self-proclaimed social-media maven, mil-aero nerd, and avid avionics geek. Connect with Courtney at Courtney@Pennwell.com, @coho on Twitter, and on LinkedIn.

Mil & Aero Magazine

February 2014
Volume 25, Issue 2
file

All Access Sponsors


Download Our Apps



iPhone

iPad

Android

Connect with Us



Newsletters

Military & Aerospace Electronics

Weekly newsletter covering technical content, breaking news and product information
SUBSCRIBE

Defense Executive

Monthly newsletter covering business news and strategic insights for executive managers
SUBSCRIBE

Embedded Computing Report

Monthly newsletter covering news on embedded computing in aerospace, defense and industrial-rugged applications
SUBSCRIBE

Unmanned Vehicles

Monthly newsletter covering news updates for designers of unmanned vehicles
SUBSCRIBE