Sailors and Navy civilians specialize in a wide variety of jobs, many of which are unknown to the public. One of the often heard about, but little known commands in the Navy is the Space and Naval Warfare Systems Command (SPAWAR), which seemed to me like a grown up science fair on steroids.
With one of its system centers located in San Diego, SPAWAR's mission as the Navy's information dominance systems command is to develop, deliver and sustain communications and information capabilities for warfighters, keeping them connected anytime, anywhere. Or in layman's terms, they develop technology so high speed that it borders on science fiction.
This was my first trip to the Naval Base Point Loma location, and I couldn't help but feel like James Bond making a trip to see "Q" before heading out on his next assignment.
We were greeted with open arms and given a brief tour of the facilities, and with every stop I was filled with the recurring desire to go back in time and pay more attention in science class. SPAWAR is filled with incredibly intelligent and talented individuals whose work is intended to better the lives of Sailors fleet-wide.
It was really like being a kid in a giant technology-related candy store. However, amidst all the distractions we were able to sit down and get a glimpse into a project that, up until recently, seemed to only exist on TV shows like NCIS.
Bryan Bagnall, an electrical engineer, walked us through a project called "Rapid Image Exploitation Resource, Full Motion Video," or (RAPIER FMV), which is a project designed to improve battle space awareness within the maritime domain. RAPIER FMV is a system comprised of complex algorithms capable of detecting, tracking and enhancing full motion video.
For example, RAPIER FMV can locate objects in foggy video and recognize small targets that may be otherwise missed by the human eye, while tracking multiple targets simultaneously.
This transition from science fiction to reality aligns with SPAWAR's vision of information dominance for our naval, joint, national and coalition warfighters through research, development, delivery and support of integrated capabilities.
Our team also got a chance to talk to Meriah Ariasthode, an environmental biologist, to get the down and dirty on a microbial fuel cell development project with the ability to generate power from mud on the sea floor.
According to Ariasthode, one of the scientific visions of SPAWAR is to power an unmanned vehicle that sits on the sea floor and charges for about 23 hours. Once charged, it can come up to take a picture, send the picture out via satellite communication and settle back down on the sea floor to charge again.
Part of Meriah's day is spent working from a floating lab overlooking Coronado with the playful sounds of the neighboring sea lions from the marine mammal program's dock.
Needless to say, SPAWAR is full of incredible people who do incredible work, and for now my fingers are once again crossed for another visit to SPAWAR Pacific.
Reprinted from the U.S. Navy's All Hands magazine of March 27, 2014. For full motion video, please go to: http://www.navy.mil/ah_online/ftrStory.asp?issue=3&id=79932.
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