Seeing With Sound
Kraken Sonar Systems Inc. is a developer of high performance sonars for acoustic and military applications, and is a world leader in the development of Synthetic Aperture Sonar (SAS), an advanced sonar technology that produces ultra-high resolution seabed imaging. Kraken is based in scenic Conception Bay South, Newfoundland and Labrador.
Founded in October of 2012, Kraken employs over a dozen experts and has made waves in ocean technology circles with its Aquapix® system, the world’s most technologically-advanced and competitively-priced interferometric Synthetic Aperture Sonar. Kraken’s practical realization of Synthetic Aperture Sonar is recognized as one of the most significant advances in ocean systems engineering in recent times.
“We developed our own synthetic aperture beam-forming software and that’s one of the key IP (Intellectual Properties) that we have here,” says Engineering Manager, David Shea. “When we were developing this, we were provided access to a code base from NATO. We were able to use their code as kind of a ground truth for our own beam-forming codes.”
This represented an incredible opportunity for Kraken, who set about speeding up the NATO codes so they could view the underwater images as quickly as possible.
“It was taking four hours to process an hour of data,” says Shea. “We wanted to speed up that process and be able to do that processing onboard the vehicle. We can now process the data three to four times faster than real-time, so if you have 10 hours of data, it means we can process that data in 2.5 hours, using a standard laptop computer. We can also process that data in real-time, at full-resolution, directly onboard the vehicle.”
In many applications, SAS provides over 25-times greater image resolution with a 300 per cent increase in area coverage compared to conventional sidescan sonars. Kraken has also developed a removable data storage pod utilizing the latest solid-state disk drive technology to provide a high-density, removable data storage solution in a compact and robust unit.
Kraken’s small size and strong background in systems integration makes it an especially agile presence in the global sonar arena, able to provide custom solutions to its clients.
“As a sonar company, (that gives us) a unique value proposition in the international market,” explains Shea. “A lot of sonar companies, big or small, are very good at building sonars, but they don’t necessarily understand the customer’s end application. We want to make sure our customers are using their sonar the right way to get the best images possible on their platform.”
Shea was recently invited to take Kraken’s technology on a successful Arctic mission to locate the HMS Erebus, one of the long-lost vessels of the ill-fated Franklin expedition, but major applications also lie in offshore exploration, ocean science, seabed surveying, environmental surveillance, and military missions. Arctic applications are nonetheless very much a part of the future for Kraken’s technology. Its flexibility (AquaPix® is primarily designed for use onboard Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), Remotely Operated Tow Vehicles (ROTVs), Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) and Tow Bodies) aligns well with the challenges of charting in the Arctic, which could help to produce safer and shorter shipping routes.
Kraken is a true Newfoundland and Labrador company that has grown out of the rich ocean technology environment in the province. “Positioning ourselves in Newfoundland is really ideal because we have that government support, we have the facilities, and there are world-class researchers here at the university that we collaborate with,” says Shea.
It is the winning combination of location, facilities and support that provides young companies like Kraken with the conditions they need to thrive and flourish, and that support Newfoundland and Labrador’s position as the Path to the ArcticTM.
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