My Coast Guard

Operation Innovation: Blue Tech Center of Expertise seeks technology solutions 

By Loretta Haring, Communications MManager, Coast Guard Acquisitions 

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The Coast Guard Blue Technology Center of Expertise (BTCOE) is designed to educate industry, academic, and government partners about Coast Guard missions and technology requirements, and to find ways to apply emerging tools and capabilities to support Coast Guard operational needs. BTCOE is located on the campus of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography at U.C. San Diego in La Jolla, California. 

What is Blue Technology? 

Blue technology is any technology, system, or platform that is designed for use or application above, on, or below the sea surface, or that is otherwise applicable to Coast Guard operational needs. This includes any technology, system, or platform that provides continuous or persistent coverage and supports or facilitates the Coast Guard’s 11 missions. 

"BTCOE's knowledge of current trends in the blue economy coupled with the ability to explore technological solutions and bring them to the attention of Coast Guard stakeholders is essential to mission success,” said Jennifer Ibaven, a program manager at BTCOE. “Given the Coast Guard's size and breadth of responsibilities, BTCOE has the unique ability to focus on how to better connect Coast Guard needs with the technologies it encounters." 

BTCOE has facilitated numerous demonstrations of technologies with Coast Guard end-users such as:  

  • A powered knee-worn system to improve mobility, endurance, and shock absorption for small boat units 
  • An audiovisual stimulation device that enables rapid rest and recovery following high stress situations 
  • A surveillance balloon for maritime domain awareness 

These demonstrations provide an opportunity for end-users to provide feedback on how well a product performs or if there is a need to further assess or obtain the technology.  
In some cases, these demonstrations and discussions with end-users have transitioned to follow-on activities within the Coast Guard. “BTCOE looks forward to continuing to transition promising technologies that meet end-user needs,” said Dr. Peter Vandeventer, a BTCOE program manager. Below are a few highlights: 

Exploring and Evaluating the Next Generation of Oil Spill Response Products 

Responding to oil spills is a team effort involving organizations such as the Coast Guard, Environmental Protection Agency, and other stakeholders. Oil spill clean-up can be time-consuming and expensive. There is a need for an inexpensive and reusable oil spill clean-up technology that is also environmentally friendly.  

While foraging for technology that is the least harmful to the environment and also might help reduce overall cost of oil spill mitigation, BTCOE encountered a nanotechnology-coated sponge which was invented out of Northwestern University and evaluated to be reusable and selectively absorb oil over water under a variety of conditions.  

BTCOE connected the Northwestern team with Coast Guard stakeholders, which ultimately led to a research and development (R&D) effort that will explore and test emerging oil spill response technologies. 

Improving Split Second Decision Making by Coast Guard Special Forces 

The Coast Guard relies on its Special Forces to operate in high threat environments. This requires extensive training for personnel to certify as advanced tactical operators.  

But there had been little focus on evaluating cognitive performance and executive-based decision-making in chaotic and stressful environments.  

BTCOE found technologies that could potentially help fill this gap, which were demonstrated to end-users with overall positive feedback as well as suggestions. As a result, an R&D effort is underway to further explore and evaluate these types of technologies. 

Exploring Low Cost and Power Technologies to aid Maritime Domain Awareness 

The Coast Guard has a need for low-cost and power technologies that can help with maritime domain awareness. BTCOE and Coast Guard end-users have collaborated with the Navy to develop a technology that can potentially fill this gap.  

The effort includes utilizing using a Dynamic Vision Sensor (DVS), collecting and labeling data, and training models to identify passing vessels. In the first stage, DVS data will be collected from land.  

Long-term potential includes incorporating the developed technology onto buoys which will alert the Coast Guard to the presence of passing vessels.  

Resources 

For those who are interested in learning more, BTCOE hosts monthly seminars and provides biweekly highlights of blue technologies that can support Coast Guard mission needs.  

For more information about BTCOE, please contact Jennifer Ibaven and Dr. Peter Vandeventer at BlueTech@uscg.mil or visit any of the links below.