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TECHNOLOGY SPOTLIGHT – What Lies Beneath GeoSpectrum Technologies

TECHNOLOGY SPOTLIGHT – What Lies Beneath GeoSpectrum Technologies




What Lies Beneath


GeoSpectrum Technologies is leading innovation in underwater threat detection


As we have seen in the current Russia-Ukraine conflict, there has been a combination of the traditional and the new in both tactics and technologies. While primarily a land and air conflict there is no doubt that international concern about naval security is growing. With submarines as a known force multiplier, their numbers have been increasing in navies large and small around the world.

The last widely known attacks by a submarine involved a Pakistani sinking of an Indian cruiser in 1971, a British nuclear sub which sank an Argentine cruiser in 1982, and a 2010 attack by a N. Korean mini sub resulting in the loss of a S. Korean corvette.

While this shows sub attacks are rare, the importance of detection is growing as world tensions and sub fleets increase. Countries with nuclear capability are few, but with advances in Air Independent Propulsion (AIP) technology, diesel-electric models can now operate submerged for far longer than previously. Less expensive, stealthy, generally smaller and more maneuverable, these pose added threats in shallower littoral waters.

Canada, with three coastlines, is especially in need of the ability to rapidly detect intruders in and near our waters, or on NATO duty. To that end we have a world leading Canadian sonar company located in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia.

GeoSpectrum Technologies Inc. (GTI) was founded by physicist Bruce Armstrong, one of the world’s leading low-frequency acoustic scientists. It is worth noting that another Canadian physicist, Robert William Boyle, was a pioneering inventor of sonar in WWI.

GTI began producing quality sonar components in 1994 for suppliers to the oil and gas exploration sector. The firm soon expanded to manufacture entire systems and ultimately into innovative designs for defence needs, which became their primary focus and where they are now an industry leader.

Royal Canadian Navy (RCN) veteran Sean Kelly, VP of Business Development for GTI, says “Everything we make is designed, innovated, manufactured, and tested here in Canada”, adding that components and systems are built and tested to surpass MilSpec/NATO standards.

He credits the highly specialized and dedicated staff for the ability to design and build all components of their systems in-house which enables GTI to innovate and surpass larger international competitors in technology.



One of GTI’s many specialized undersea defence systems is their unique Towed Reelable Active-Passive Sonar (TRAPS), the only system in the world that can do multiple frequencies as a variable-depth sonar. While low frequency sonar is used to overcome anti-sonar anechoic submarine coverings, detection performance is diminished in the littoral environment where there is more reverberation noise. GTI has overcome a technological barrier such that TRAPS allows for easy switching from low frequency in blue water, to medium frequency for littoral environments and towable at proven speeds of 16 knots for fast search capability.

TRAPS also detects newer quiet torpedoes, whether thermal or electric, thanks to its dual sonar capabilities and range. It is also less costly than competing systems as it doesn’t require a huge hydraulic system for deployment.



GTI is also an innovator in Hull Mounted Sonar (HMS) with a design that is both lighter and smaller than competitors. Though the common practice involves a single active sensor, GTI’s design uses both active and passive separated sensors. With a dome of reduced size and weight, this full NATO-grade system can be incorporated onto smaller corvette-sized vessels. This means a greater number of ships can have a heightened degree of protection and intrusion detection. With less of a costly superstructure needed, retrofitting is also significantly easier, faster and less expensive.

The GTI tech also employs a frequency slightly lower than most competitors. This enables an approximate 20% greater range in deep water, using the same power. With the range extended by about 2/3 in bi-static operation with another ship, there is a significant range advantage over two ships operating independently. Ships using TRAPS below the thermocline and the HMS above, can more accurately detect targets regardless of depth.



Another GTI technology is a point-defence system designed as a static sonar on an anchored buoy or barge. Called “Lillypad” it can consist of various acoustic and non-acoustic sensors in combination with other technologies, such as radar, to detect activities below, on, and above the water. The advantage of Lillypad is the constant uninterrupted monitoring of a general region for several months at a time or longer without the inherent complexities, limitations, and expenses of manned patrol ships. This completely autonomous concept which reports back 24/7 to an Ops Center, is particularly advantageous for countries like Canada with vast coastlines and limited resources to detect everything from smuggling or other illegal activities, to actual military threat.

Kelly says the firm does on-site studies and consultations with clients to determine what their needs are and what type of sensors and other detection/monitoring systems are required. In combination with GTI technologies, other components can be acquired and built-in to create a platform to meet any environment and mission priorities. The first iteration of Lillypad has been successfully trialed for an overseas client, and negotiations are now underway with several other clients.

Among other GTI technologies are sea-bed sensors, acoustic targets, and the innovative long range acoustic messaging system (LRAM). This unique compact technology can send acoustically coded strategic messages (eg. text) underwater to submerged vessels hundreds of nautical miles away using low frequency (LF) or up to 1,000nm using very low frequency (VLF).

Funded through the Government’s All Domain Situational Awareness (ADSA) program, a similar technology “C-Bass” was tested successfully in an international scientific study (Coordinated Arctic Acoustic Thermometry Experiment – CAATEX), transmitting data every third day for over a year beneath the Arctic ice. Signals were received at distances of 400nm and at 1350nm. C-Bass has likely achieved the longest undersea text message ever

Because of its innovative defence work, security against network intrusion is a priority. The fact that all aspects of production are kept in-house helps, and with government advice the firm is constantly at work ensuring that all computer systems and designs are protected such that Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification level 2 (CMMC-2.0) is in progress.


Marc Montgomery is a Regular CDR Contributor


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