Under the sea: Real-time detection of marine mammals during sonar operations

Competitive Projects

Up to $1.2M in phased development funding to propel technology forward

The Department of National Defence and Canadian Armed Forces (DND/CAF) are seeking innovative solutions that can provide situational awareness of marine mammal presence to minimize the risk of harm from naval operations.

What IDEaS Provides

Funding of up to $200,000 will be provided for innovative solutions to help advance this challenge over a performance period of up to 6 months. There is a potential opportunity for further funding of up to $1 million for a performance period of up to a year should the solution be found successful and promising by DND/CAF.

What Innovators Bring

Solutions that demonstrate ability to automate the detection or prediction in a tactically relevant timeline as well as the ability to estimate the uncertainty of this detection/prediction. 


WebID Project Title Innovator Amount Stage


Background and Context

The Government of Canada’s Oceans Protection Plan is designed to safeguard the health of the marine environment. In support of this government priority, DND is committed to minimizing the impact of tactical active sonar on marine mammals. This requires real-time situational awareness of marine mammal presence in the environment during sonar operations.

Current approaches tend to be crew resource intensive, and have limitations:

  • Visual monitoring may not always be effective depending on the environmental conditions (e.g. low visibility at night), observer skill level and the limited opportunities to spot certain species;
  • Passive acoustic monitoring requires unique skills and is challenged due to the increased background noise generated by the active sonar transmissions.

In addition to the operational limitations, bandwidth and latency add additional challenges. Operational sonar platforms, like the CP140M, CH148 and Canadian Patrol Frigate, require information in near real-time to support informed decision-making. Raw data can clog limited pipes, so autonomous, decentralized data exploitation supporting the delivery of actionable intelligence is preferred.

Essential Outcomes

Proposed solutions must demonstrate:

  • The ability to automate the detection or prediction in a tactically relevant timeline (i.e. not reliant on archival data and analysis delays) of marine mammal presence in environments with active sonar operations; and
  • The ability to estimate the uncertainty of this detection / prediction.

Desired Outcomes

Proposed solutions should include capabilities such as, but not limited to, the following:

  • The classification of marine mammal species;
  • Localization or tracking of an individual marine mammal;
  • Estimation of likelihood of marine mammal abundance for a general timeframe and location;
  • Complete automation of the detection (no human in the loop);
  • Integration of different data types, modes and sources;
  • Exploitation of unique sensing modalities;
  • Reliability in high-noise environments;
  • Ability to operate in all types of marine environments and conditions, including in high acoustic ambient conditions and physical extremes such as the Arctic;
  • Decentralized data exploitation to provide actionable intelligence without clogging up bandwidth or information pipelines.

Supplemental Information

Canada will not provide government furnished property (GFP), including but not limited to materiel, equipment, access, information, and personnel to enable the Contractor to conduct the work during Component 1a.

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