Qinetiq leads Operation Osprey

A Qinetiq-led consortium has won a three-year contract worth at least £12m to develop underwater sensing technology for the MoD.

Known as Osprey, the project will work on the core technologies needed to underpin the next generation of sub-sea sensor systems for the UK military.

Osprey consists of 17 industrial partners and academic organisations including Thales UK, Systems Engineering Assessment (SEA) and UCL. It was established following an MoD competition, and has an option to extend the contract for a further two years.

Value for money

Ian Prescott, managing director of Qinetiq’s sea division, said: ‘The consortium includes SMEs covering a range of world-leading niche capabilities and major equipment suppliers. The collaborative approach to research within the consortium is certain to give the MoD unparalleled value for money, and the Royal Navy the technological edge for its future underwater sensors.’

The technology developed by the Osprey team will span the entire range of underwater applications, from acoustic and non-acoustic sensing, anti-submarine warfare and mine countermeasures to detection, classification and localisation and data fusion technology.

Philip Cooper of Qinetiq’s Underwater Research department said the core sensing techniques will apply to the various mission types or capability requirements of the MoD. The next stage is the modelling and simulation of the technologies, the development of sonar models and validation of trial results. ‘It is an iterative process,’ he said. ‘It’s all about developing our understanding.’

Cooper said that the contract is what’s called an enabler, adding that the team doesn’t actually know what it is going to do until a particular task is received.

‘We set up the consortium to provide the best expertise from within the group, depending upon the requirement. Osprey has large companies such as Qinetiq and Thales where expertise is very broad, as well as SMEs and universities which can cover the niches,’ he said.

Active partner

However, Cooper added that ideally the consortium will be an active rather than passive partner, and will push innovation it believes will be advantageous. ‘Rather than just responding to a request, the consortium hopes to be able to suggest and propose techniques, basically feeding off other areas of technology in which we and our partners specialise,’ he said.

Other consortium members include BAE Systems, Chelsea Technologies Group, Heriot-WattUniversity, ImperialCollege, LoughboroughUniversity, University of Bath and University of Southampton.