The Battleship Texas, the goodwill ambassador and museum ship that resides at the San Jacinto State Historic site, is back in the business of serving the nation this week — this time in a new role. The century-old battleship, a formidable warrior that saw the nation through two World Wars, is serving as a testing platform for a six-foot-long robotic fish designed to detect contraband hidden on a ship’s hull.
Known as the BIOSwimmer, the technology undergoing testing is a highly maneuverable, unmanned underwater vehicle that is equipped with a sophisticated suite of sensors and embodies the natural shape of a tuna. The demonstration of this underwater robotic search system is a collaborative exercise of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, the Department of Homeland Security’s Science and Technology Directorate and Boston Engineering.
The test team planted packages of mock contraband of varying sizes in tight, hard-to-reach spaces on the battleship’s hull and put the BIOSwimmer through the paces to see if it can successfully detect them.
This is the first time the BIOSwimmer, developed by Boston Engineering Corporation’s Advanced Systems Group with funding from a Small Business Innovation Research award from DHS S&T, will be tested in an operational marine environment.
“Texas Parks and Wildlife is pleased to make the Battleship TEXAS available to serve the nation in the interests of strengthening port security,” says Andy Smith, TPWD’s ship manager. “The tests underway this week will be instructive in the Department of Homeland Security’s efforts to refine this innovative technology so it may be deployed to make our maritime environment safer. The Battleship TEXAS is showing us that you’re never too old to be of service to your country.”
The goal of the testing is to work out the details so that the system can ultimately be used to search for contraband attached to the hulls and underwater appendages of ships, according to DHS S&T BIOSwimmer Program Manager David Taylor.
The Battleship TEXAS became the first battleship museum in the U.S. in 1948. It is the last of the battleships in the tradition of the HMS Dreadnought that participated in World Wars I and II.