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Sonar patent finally published

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Patent application title: MULTIBEAM, MULTIFREQUENCY SONAR METHOD AND APPARATUS

Inventors: MATTHEW SAWRIE

Agents: Anissimoff & Associates

Assignees:

Origin: LONDON, ON CA

IPC8 Class: AG01S1500FI

USPC Class:

Publication date: 08/26/2010

Patent application number: 20100214874

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Abstract:

The present invention relates to a sonar method and apparatus of tracking objects underwater. Specifically, the method and apparatus can be used to acoustically track a multitude of objects in a hemi-spherical volume 360° azimuth and 180° elevation relative to the location of the apparatus. The method and apparatus of the present invention provide four-dimensional, real-time tracking of underwater objects.

Claims:

1. A sonar head arrangement for detecting objects, comprising:four arrays of sonar elements in an azimuthal plane arranged so that each said array is angularly displaced from the next adjacent array by substantially 90.degree., said sonar elements projecting sonar beams outwardly and downwardly in a direction orthogonal to the said azimuthal plane such that the beams projected from each array intersect with beams projected from each angularly adjacent array and wherein said sonar elements are adapted to detect said projected beams when reflected from the object.

 

2. The sonar head arrangement of claim 1, wherein:each array comprises a plurality of sets of sonar elements, each set comprising at least two sonar elements, each sonar element projecting beams within a predetermined angular range, wherein the totality of all the predetermined angular ranges of all of the beams in the array are substantially equal to 180.degree..

 

3. The sonar head arrangement of claim 2, further comprising:at least one sonar element at the center of said array projecting sonar beams downwardly in a direction orthogonal to the said azimuthal plane.

 

4. The sonar head arrangement of claim 3, wherein:each array has at least four sets of sonar elements.

 

5. The sonar head arrangement of claim 4, wherein:each sonar element in each set oppositely projects beams to either side of said array within an angular range from horizontal, namely: the first set substantially within the angular range of 0.degree. to 12.degree., the second set substantially within the range of 12.degree. to 25.degree., the third set substantially within the in the angular range of 25.degree. to 43.degree. and the fourth set substantially within the angular range of 43.degree. to 70.degree., and wherein said at least one center sonar element projects a conical beam having a width of about 40.degree..

 

6. The sonar head arrangement of claim 5 having two center sonar elements wherein;the first center sonar element projects a conical beam having a width of substantially 40.degree. and a second centre sonar element projects a conical beam having a width of substantially 10.degree..

 

7. A sonar head arrangement according to claim 1, claim 2 or claim 3, wherein:said sonar elements detect sonar waves of a particular frequency which is different from that detectable by the other said sonar elements.

 

8. A method for locating an object in a body of water, comprising the steps of:providing a sonar head of claim 1;determining the depth of the body of water and adjusting the rate of transmission of a transducer of each sonar element in the sonar head arrangement based on the depth of the body of water;transmitting sonar beams at each sonar element at a particular frequency;receiving sonar beams reflected by the object in at least one sonar element of at least one pair of angularly adjacent arrays; anddetermining the position of the object based upon distance and downward angle.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

 

[0001]This application is a continuation of U.S. application Ser. No. 11/950,577, filed Dec. 5, 2007, which is incorporated by reference as if fully recited herein.

 

TECHNICAL FIELD

 

[0002]The present invention relates to a sonar method and apparatus for tracking objects underwater. Specifically, the method and apparatus can be used to acoustically track multiple objects in a 360° horizontal and 180° vertical directional zone, with reference to the location of the apparatus. The method and apparatus of the present invention provide four-dimensional, real-time tracking of underwater objects.

 

BACKGROUND OF THE ART

 

[0003]Conventional methods of tracking underwater objects utilizing sonar technology suffer from several limitations. One method utilizes motorized rotating sonar transducers. This method is limited to two-dimensional tracking of objects in small areas of the water column. Moreover, the utilization of moving parts makes the apparatus expensive and prone to failure.

 

[0004]An improvement over this method utilizes two orthogonally mounted transducers, producing two intersecting beams. This method is limited to pinpointing of objects in three-dimensions in the small volume of water where the two beams intersect. Moreover, since this method utilizes two sound transmitters of the same frequency, unwanted interference between the two sound waves occurs.

 

[0005]An improved method utilizes a multi-beam sonar comprised of a multitude of parallel beams in one direction together with a multitude of parallel beams in a different, orthogonal direction. This method can track objects in three-dimensions, as the objects move through the intersection of the orthogonal beams. The method utilizes only one sound transmitter at one particular frequency. This method is limited in several ways.

 

[0006]First, the method utilizes two sonar heads to generate the orthogonal beams. This makes the application costly. Second, although the method permits a larger volume of water to be observed at any one time, this can only occur in the direction of the transmitted wave and the direction of the beams. Third, as the method utilizes a sound wave of only one frequency, a large amount of computing power is required to periodically sample each beam for possible targets.

 

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

 

[0007]Accordingly, it is an object of the present invention to utilize a single sonar head with a multitude of sonar transmit and receive piezoelectric elements, hereinafter called sonar elements. This configuration has several advantages, including lower cost, easier handling and simpler installation. The sonar head of the present invention utilizes a special arrangement of sonar elements to achieve the objects of the invention.

 

[0008]Another object of the present invention is to provide a method of continuous tracking of objects in the entire body of water surrounding the sonar head. The present invention is capable of continuous and simultaneous observation of the hemi-spherical body of water surrounding the sonar head, 360° azimuth and 180° elevation relative to the sonar head apparatus, typically oriented in a downward direction.

 

[0009]This is accomplished by utilizing a multitude of fixed intersecting angled beams. The beams are oriented in four horizontal directions, or quadrants, covering the entire 360° area surrounding the sonar head. The beams are also angled downward from the sonar head. The angled beams are adjacent to each other, such that the entire 180° vertical space in a downward direction from the sonar head is being continuously monitored. This configuration of the beams provides for the continuous intersection of the beams in the entire volume of observed water.

 

[0010]The sonar elements used in this invention both transmit sound waves and receive waves reflected from target objects. Each sonar element emits a simultaneous sound/sonar wave, thus permitting simultaneous reception by all sonar elements of sound waves. Each sonar element also detects reflected sound waves of only a particular frequency. The elements may be arranged in such a configuration to utilize multiple frequencies. This innovative feature is essential in permitting the current invention to continuously monitor the entire body of water surrounding the sonar head.

 

[0011]The sonar elements of the present invention are preferably arranged in four quadrants in a horizontal direction, and are angled so as to cover the entire vertical space from the sonar head downward. In addition, one or more central sonar element(s) can be used to transmit sound waves in a vertical downward direction from the apparatus. These vertical sonar elements produce intersecting beams directly beneath the sonar head, in the volume of water where the angled beams previously described are not present.

 

[0012]A further object of the current invention is to analyze the reflected sound waves of each sonar element and display the data in real-time on a monitor for easy viewing by a user. This is accomplished with the use of a computer or microprocessor and any desired type of display monitor.

 

[0013]As previously mentioned, each sonar element transmits and receives sound waves of a particular frequency. This permits simultaneous transmission by all sonar elements in order to achieve sound waves that intersect each other. Once a sonar element detects sound waves reflected from a target object, data is transmitted to the on-board computer for analysis. This data contains the strength of the returned signal, as well as the time of detection and the direction to the target object. Similar data is transmitted from one or more adjacent sonar elements producing sound waves that intersect the previous sound wave, and which detect the same target.

 

[0014]The computer analyzes the data from the sonar elements and determines the exact location of the object in three-dimensions: distance, angle and depth. Moreover, the computer can track the time of detection of each target by each transmitted wave, thus adding time as a fourth dimension that can be utilized therein to continuously track the object.

 

[0015]The present invention has the advantage that the processing power of the on-board computer/microprocessor is reduced in comparison to the previously described conventional methods of underwater object tracking. This is due to the fact that the computer and the software running therewith can unambiguously identify which sonar element detected a target object and, therefore, can make appropriate determinations as to the direction and angle to the target object, without continuous comparative calculations.

 

[0016]Further features of the invention will be described or will become apparent in the course of the following detailed description.

 

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

 

[0017]In order that the invention may be more clearly understood, embodiments thereof will now be described in detail by way of example, with reference to the accompanying drawings, in which:

 

[0018]FIG. 1 is a top view of the sonar element arrangement utilized by an embodiment of the sonar head of the present invention;

 

[0019]FIG. 2 is an example embodiment side view of the multibeam arrangement of the present invention, corresponding to the sonar element arrangement of FIG. 1;

 

[0020]FIG. 3 is a diagram showing intersecting beams; and

 

[0021]FIG. 4 is another diagram showing intersecting beams.

 

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS

 

[0022]Referring now to FIG. 1 the sonar element arrangement inside the sonar head of a preferred embodiment of the present invention is shown. The sonar head of the present invention comprises four groups of peripheral sonar elements 1, 2, 3 and 4, one in each quadrant of a horizontal plane, hereafter referred to as quadrant sonar elements.

 

[0023]Each of the four groups of quadrant sonar elements 1, 2, 3 and 4 is comprised of multiple sets of two or more sonar elements. In this preferred embodiment there are four sets, each is comprised of two rectangular sonar elements. Although one long rectangular sonar element in each set is sufficient, it is preferable to use two or more such sonar elements in order to increase the output power and the receiving sensitivity of the sonar head.

 

[0024]Referring again to FIG. 1, the quadrant sonar elements in each set of group 1 are of the same size and orientation. The outer set is comprised of quadrant sonar elements 11a and 11b, each of which produces beams that are 12° wide, projected to cover the first 12° downward from the horizontal surface, that is, the span between 90° from a downward vertical line to 78° from such a line, as best illustrated in FIG. 2. The next set is comprised of quadrant sonar elements 12a and 12b, which produce beams that are 13° wide, covering the range of from 78° to 65° from the downward vertical line, as best illustrated in FIG. 2. The next set is comprised of quadrant sonar elements 13a and 13b, which produce beams that are 18° wide, covering the range of from about 65° to about 47° from the vertical, as best illustrated in FIG. 2. The inner most set is comprised of quadrant sonar elements 14a and 14b, which produce beams that are 27° wide, covering the range of from 47° to 20° from the vertical, as best illustrated by FIG. 2.

 

[0025]Each beam produced by a quadrant sonar element is 90° in length, extending in a horizontal outward direction. The two elements of each set are cambered at 90 degrees with respect to each other. This feature combined with the fact that sonar elements in the same set transmit and receive sound waves of the same frequency, effectively creates one 180° long beam corresponding to each set of quadrant sonar elements.

 

[0026]Referring again to FIG. 1, quadrant sonar element groups 2, 3 and 4 contain sonar elements of the same size and configuration as those described previously for group 1. As the beams corresponding to each set are effectively 180° long, four sound waves can be transmitted and received in each of the four orthogonal directions from the location of the sonar head. In this fashion beams originating from each group of quadrant sonar elements intersect the beams of the two neighboring groups of quadrant sonar elements. For example beams originating from group 1 intersect the beams originating from groups 2 and 4; beams from group 2 intersect the beams originating from groups 1 and 3; beams from group 3 intersect the beams originating from groups 2 and 4; beams from group 4 intersect the beams originating from groups 1 and 3.

 

[0027]The centre sonar elements 50 and 60 are square, circular or annular in shape and produce beams oriented in a vertical downward direction from the apparatus. In this preferred embodiment sonar element 50 produces a conical beam that subtends a 40° angle and sonar element 60 produces a conical beam with a 10° angle. The purpose of sonar elements 50 and 60 is to transmit and receive sound waves in the volume of water directly beneath the sonar head, where the beams of the four quadrant sonar elements are not present. Since the angle of the centre sonar beams is perpendicular to the water surface, the beams produced have a direct path to the seafloor. This direct path allows for the maximum rate of transmission of sonar waves per second. This feature is especially useful for the maximum definition of targets directly beneath the sonar head.

 

[0028]Referring now to FIG. 2, a cross-section of the beams produced by the sonar elements of groups 1 and 3 through the AA section of FIG. 1 is shown. Horizontal line 100 represents the water surface. As shown in FIG. 2, beam 11 is produced by quadrant sonar elements 11a and 11b of FIG. 1. Beam 11 is 12° wide and oriented at 78° from the downward vertical line. Beam 31 in the opposite quadrant is produced by quadrant sonar elements 31a and 31b of FIG. 1 and is identical to beam 11, with the exception of being oriented in the opposite direction. The same is true of beams 12 and 32, produced by quadrant sonar elements 12a, 12b and 32a, 32b, respectively. Beams 12 and 32 are 13° wide and oriented at 65° from the downward vertical in opposite quadrants. Beams 13 and 33, produced by quadrant sonar elements 13a, 13b and 33a, 33b, respectively, are 18° wide and oriented at 47° from the downward vertical line. Beams 14 and 34, produced by quadrant sonar elements 14a, 14b and 34a, 34b, respectively, are 27° wide and oriented at 20° from the downward vertical line. Finally the centre beams 51 and 61 are produced by sonar elements 50 and 60 respectively and are conical and 40 degrees and 10 degrees wide respectively and oriented directly downward from the sonar head.

 

[0029]As can be appreciated, an identical set of beams is produced by the quadrant sonar elements of groups 2 and 4, however in an orthogonal direction to the beams produced by the quadrant sonar elements of groups 1 and 3. As the beams are 180° long, they intersect as shown in FIG. 3.

 

[0030]FIG. 3 is a cross-section through the same AA section shown in FIG. 2. In FIG. 3 the beams 11, 12, 13 and 14 produced by the quadrant sonar elements of group 1 of FIG. 1 are shown, together with beam 21 produced by quadrant sonar elements 21a and 21b of group 2. It can be appreciated that beam 21 has a direction perpendicular to the plane of the page. Thus beam 21 intersects beam 11 in the area labeled 1121, beam 12 in the area labeled 1221, beam 13 in the area labeled 1321 and beam 14 in the area 1421.

 

[0031]In the same fashion, beams 22, 23 and 24 of group 2 intersect beams 11, 12, 13 and 14 of group 1. Similarly beams 21, 22, 23 and 24 of group 2 intersect beams 31, 32, 33 and 34 of group 3. It can also be appreciated that beams 41, 42, 43 and 44 intersect in the same fashion the beams of group 1 and 3.

 

[0032]As an illustration, FIG. 4 is a cross-section through the same AA section shown in FIG. 2, showing the intersection of beam 22 of group 2 with beams 31, 32, 33 and 34 of group 3 in areas 3122, 3222, 3322 and 3422, respectively.

 

[0033]As can be appreciated, a multitude of beam intersections throughout the entire body of water is created by the sonar element configuration of the present invention. The beam intersections extend indefinitely in all directions. A moving underwater object passes continuously through areas of intersecting beams.

 

[0034]In operation, each sonar element is capable of both transmitting and receiving sound waves at a particular frequency. The rate of transmission of the sound waves is adjusted during the operation of the apparatus. In particular, when the apparatus is first turned on a determination of the depth of the body of water will be performed by each sonar element and the rate of transmission of each transducer sonar element will be adjusted accordingly. This determination by each sonar element is necessary because each sonar element's corresponding beam is angled differently and therefore the distance to the bottom of the water body will be different. Alternatively the user can define the outside perimeter, radius and depth to be utilized, as explained in more detail below.

 

[0035]Once the depth determination is made by each sonar element and the rate of transmission is properly set, the sonar elements will continuously transmit sound waves at particular frequencies and listen for returned sound waves that are reflected by any underwater objects. When a sonar element receives a reflected wave, the distance to the target object can be determined in accordance with well known sonar techniques.

 

[0036]Due to the fact that each sonar element provides a unique received signal, the computer can easily determine the beam in which the target object was detected. Moreover, since the computer/microprocessor is pre-programmed with each sonar element's exact orientation, it can precisely determine the downward angle to the target object. Once the distance and downward angle to the target object are known the computer can easily calculate the depth and horizontal distance to the target object. A person skilled in the art can appreciate that the processing power required for these calculations is much less than that required for existing single frequency multibeam sonar systems, in which all beams must be continuously compared using complex calculations to determine a potential target locations.

 

[0037]In addition, an essential feature and advantage of the present invention is that a target object is always present at the intersection of two different beams and therefore the object will always be detected by an additional beam. This feature enables the computer/microprocessor of the present invention to calculate with improved precision the position of the target object in the 360° space surrounding the sonar head.

 

[0038]As an object moving through the water is continuously present in an area of intersection of two different beams, the present invention is capable of precisely tracking the movement of any underwater object. The time of each detection of a target object is recorded and monitored. Thus, the present invention is capable of tracking and monitoring underwater objects in real-time. The time element is essentially a fourth-dimension of the present invention's tracking capabilities, in addition to distance, downward elevation angle and azimuthal direction to the target object.

 

[0039]As can be appreciated from the heretofore description, the areas of intersection of two beams become progressively larger as the distance from the sonar head increases. Therefore, to a certain extent, the accuracy of the system is dependent on the distance of the target object from the sonar head. Should increased accuracy be required, the number of beams in each quadrant can be increased in order to increase the number of beam intersections, as described in more detail infra at paragraph 44.

 

[0040]The data processed by the computer is immediately displayed on any suitable display, such as LCD, CRT or any other desired display type. A user will be able to continuously monitor underwater objects in real-time.

 

[0041]Another useful feature of the present invention is the capability for a user to set limits to the monitoring distance from the sonar head. For example, in an application such as recreational fish-finding, a user may want to limit the target detection to a particular horizontal circular area of a few hundred meters and a depth of a few tens of meters, as practicable. In another application, such as commercial fishing, the monitoring area can be increased, as required. A user can easily accomplish this by inputting the dimensions of the perimeter, radius and depth to be monitored into the on-board computer connected to the sonar-head.

 

[0042]The present invention can be utilized in many different applications, such as recreational or commercial fish-finding, military applications and many other applications where underwater target detection is desired. Depending on the application, the present invention can be easily interfaced with a GPS or mapping unit in order to precisely pinpoint the exact coordinates of a target object.

 

[0043]Another advantage of the present invention is the effective target detection in shallow water columns. The angled beams of the present invention can overcome the inherent problems of conventional sonar techniques associated with shallow water depths. In contrast to conventional sonar methods, which can monitor only a small conical sample of the water column directly beneath the sonar head, the present invention offers the user a complete view of the entire body of water. This not only provides a greater scope of view for target objects, but it also provides an increase in navigational safety, such as allowing forward detection of obstacles and bottom depth.

 

[0044]Yet another advantage of the present invention occurs in fishing applications, where utilizing conventional sonar techniques require the fishing vessel to be directly above the fish. In shallow water fish are likely to scatter away from an area where a vessel navigates directly above. By utilizing the present invention, the fishing vessel is not required to be directly above the fish for adequate detection.

 

[0045]The preferred embodiment described heretofore is only an example embodiment of the present invention. Depending on the application, the sonar head used may contain many more sonar elements at many other orientations. An application requiring more accuracy can employ more than four sets of sonar elements in each quadrant. The areas of intersection of the beams produced will be smaller, thus increasing the accuracy of detection and tracking. In addition, where more accuracy is required directly beneath the sonar head, the number of centre sonar elements can be reduced or eliminated in order to accommodate more quadrant sonar elements.

 

[0046]In addition, the sonar heads of the present invention are field replaceable, such that a user need only purchase one computer and display unit, which can be used with many different sonar heads, according to the application at hand. At the same time the invention is not predicated upon a particular type of sonar element, such that in the future more efficient sonar elements may be used, as they become available.

 

[0047]Moreover, one computer/microprocessor unit may be connected to two or more sonar heads. This is particularly useful when a vessel's hull contains large protrusions which may block the transmission and receival of sound waves in all desired directions. In such applications sonar heads may be placed at different locations on the vessel's hull in order to enable unobstructed transmittal and receival in a complete 360° horizontal and 180° vertical directions. This may be accomplished using multiple complete sonar heads as described herein or by using multiple partial sonar heads such that the aggregate provides the capabilities described herein.

 

[0048]Other advantages which are inherent to the structure are obvious to one skilled in the art. The embodiments are described herein illustratively and are not meant to limit the scope of the invention as claimed. Variations of the foregoing embodiments will be evident to a person of ordinary skill.

 

Read more: http://www.faqs.org/patents/app/20100214874#ixzz1AY0cM0IY

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interesting

now do you have to design a fishfinder to interpret the signal from the all sonar elements

or will a sonar unit on the market today work with them

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Congrats Matthew!

If you hadn't described it in person, I'd still be scratching my head after reading that. When can I pick mine up? ;)

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Congrats Matthew!

If you hadn't described it in person, I'd still be scratching my head after reading that. When can I pick mine up? ;)

 

 

The unit has been beta tested and works fine. We are currently talking to sonar companies in regards to manufacturing rights etc... It will be a few years before it hits the market.

 

Basically the technology enables the operator to view all directions at the same time, in real time. Depending on the number of sonar elements used will determine the clarity of the object. We have watched schools of baitfish being attacked 150 feet off to one side. It's like watching video but it's sonar.

Edited by Vanselena

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Vans, we talked about this a couple of years ago. I still don't get what the display will look like. I get the transducers, but not how you can display what is below and off to the sides, north south east and west, on one screen. Do you plan on cursors that will scan your data right and left and all around?

 

I will be really excited to see this take off - you have a great mind and fabulous drive. Best of luck to you.

Edited by douG

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Congrates man!!!!!!!!! hope it takes off like RIM...(Research In Motion) London has some good thinkers down there

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Vans, we talked about this a couple of years ago. I still don't get what the display will look like. I get the transducers, but not how you can display what is below and off to the sides, north south east and west, on one screen. Do you plan on cursors that will scan your data right and left and all around?

 

I will be really excited to see this take off - you have a great mind and fabulous drive. Best of luck to you.

 

There is a top view to locate potential targets, once targets are located then the software allows you to virtually go underwater and explore the actual targets, similar to what a scuba diver would see. You can zoom into a target like say your lure and watch a fish approach or you can look at structure and watch for movement, really the options viewing are almost endless.

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Man vs fish, fish lose!

This sounds amazing! And Terry would probably be your first customer based on his adventures with Lowrance! :whistling:

HH

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interesting

now do you have to design a fishfinder to interpret the signal from the all sonar elements

or will a sonar unit on the market today work with them

 

 

By expecting people to lug hundreds of pounds of stuff on to the ice for him so he can figure things out over time.

Edited by sparky

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