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August 18, 2022

Navy awards WPI researchers $350K for contaminant-sensing drone tech

A brick building with a pointed roof with many windows. Photo | Timothy Doyle Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Two researchers at Worcester Polytechnic Institute have been awarded $347,843 by the U.S. Navy to develop a computational model that processes data from underwater drones to estimate the source and concentration of contaminants in oceans.

Michael Demetriou and Nikolaos Gatsonis, aerospace engineering professors at WPI, are developing the program which could help guide responses to chemical or biological threats, accidents, and environmental disasters, according to a Wednesday press release.

“Locating the plume source and estimating in real-time the concentration of a liquid or gas plume in ocean waters is complex but critical. With better, faster detection and estimation of underwater plumes, the Navy and other agencies could respond to intrusions, submerged airplanes or vehicles, people who are trapped, and contaminants that should be contained or remediated,” said Gatsonis, who is also the head of the aerospace engineering department, in the press release.

The project will take three years and will enlist the help of multiple teams of undergraduate students and one graduate student.

Previously, the researchers developed a model with grants from the Air Force Office of Scientific Research and The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency to use aerial drone data to estimate the concentration of gas plumes in the atmosphere.

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