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University of Hawaii Lab Forges Ahead with $77.2M in Navy Funding

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The Navy has awarded the University of Hawaii a new contract for its defense-related Applied Research Laboratory — this one worth up to $77.2 million over five years.

The task order contract is for research, development, engineering and test and evaluation for programs throughout the Department of Defense, with $777,710 in funding expected to be obligated in fiscal 2019 as part of an initial delivery order, according to a May 13 contract notice.

UH’s Applied Research Laboratory was established in 2008 as a Navy-sponsored lab and is one of 13 university-affiliated research centers within the Defense Department.

The first contract ran just under 11 years and with an extension and supplemental funding, reached $59 million, according to the university.

“UH is home to the first Navy-sponsored university affiliated research center to be established since the 1940s,” said Director Margo Edwards. “The renewal of ARL’s contract for another five years recognizes the innovative research conducted today at UH, which has the potential to solve challenges facing the Department of Defense moving forward.”

Within each contract the lab conducts a number of “tasks” that are much shorter in duration and smaller in scope than the overarching contract.

The Hawaii lab’s “core competency” areas include ocean science, astronomy, sensor development, remote sensing, new renewable energy and mission-related research and development.

So far, 30% of the funded work has been classified, Edwards said.

Undergraduate and graduate students, university professors and university researchers perform the work. The lab also mentors a few high school students via summer internships.

Initially, plans for the military-related lab at UH generated controversy, with dozens of protesters occupying Bachman Hall in 2005. Critics were concerned about weapons research and a shift away from core educational values. The university said it has not conducted offensive weapons research.

The lab’s work has included ocean environmental effects of natural and man-made underwater noise sources on littoral, or nearshore, anti-submarine warfare, as well as marine life.

Associated capabilities include bathymetry, autonomous underwater vehicles, acoustic mapping and buried mine detection.

The lab also has worked on advanced electro-optical systems, detection systems and arrays that have been applied to astronomical research as well as light detection and ranging (LIDAR), laser and remote sensing technologies.

Sensors developed at UH include systems for the detection of improvised explosive devices, the university said.

In March 2018, the lab integrated live imagery from two unmanned surface vessels, three unmanned aerial vehicles and one unmanned underwater vehicle to characterize the environment around a shallow water reef in Kaneohe Bay. The demonstration was held for over 35 officials from the Office of Naval Research, NASA, Coast Guard and U.S. Indo-Pacific Command.

Later that year the Applied Research Lab, in partnership with other groups, began a second round of testing on a wave energy converter at a Navy test site off Marine Corps Base Hawaii.

The unit converts wave motion to electrical energy and is being tested for persistent oceanographic observation and unmanned underwater vehicle recharge.

Although Edwards said she’d need sponsor approval to talk about some of the bigger projects, she did say the work conducted as part of the ARL contract has saved the Defense Department millions of dollars, has helped modernize facilities and “is providing innovative, cost-effective approaches to address threats, including humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in response to natural and man-made hazards.”

The Pentagon has five Navy university-affiliated research centers, four for the Army, and labs for the Missile Defense Agency, National Security Agency, Office of the Secretary of Defense and U.S. Strategic Command.

Other universities have received far more than UH for military research. In 2017 the Navy awarded a contract worth as much as $1.1 billion over 10 years to the research lab at the University of Texas at Austin.

The Texas lab was founded in 1945 and has been a key developer of sonar equipment and processing techniques for the U.S. Navy and has led research on GPS satellite navigation technologies, the university said.

This article is written by William Cole from The Honolulu Star-Advertiser and was legally licensed via the Tribune Content Agency through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

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