Chesapeake Bay Oyster Monitoring Grand Challenge

Through environmental partnership, Northrop Grumman is working to develop an innovative method of remotely monitoring bay oyster reefs.

Save the Bay

Oyster restoration is key to the health of the Chesapeake Bay, as oysters are vital in helping clean water and providing the basis for restoring the bay's natural ecosystem.

Unfortunately, the bay oyster population has declined for over a century. In response, The Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) aims to plant 10 billion new oysters by 2025.

One of the primary conservation challenges is remotely monitoring oyster reefs across the Chesapeake Bay. Only a small fraction of reefs are monitored, and the CBF's current methods of gathering data are both labor intensive and limited by weather and water conditions.

In partnership with the CBF, Northrop Grumman has launched the Chesapeake Bay Oyster Monitoring Grand Challenge. Through the Challenge, our employees are developing technology solutions for remote oyster reef monitoring that leverage the best of our remote sensing capabilities and apply them to low-cost commercial hardware in an effort to improve conservation programs.

Northrop Grumman Oyster Monitoring Capabilities

The CBF’s requirements for monitoring the oyster reefs include:

  • Mapping and imaging oyster sanctuary reefs
  • Collecting water chemistry data
  • Obtaining health and development status data
  • Providing actionable insights to the CBF on how to best deploy resources
The remote sensing solutions developed via the Challenge will capture images of and map oyster reefs, collect water chemistry, and other related data to assess the health and development status of existing oyster reefs and proposed future sites.

During Phase 1 in 2019, more than 40 employees submitted 10 unique proposals. Five teams were selected as finalists to further develop and demonstrate their sensor technologies. Phase 2 in 2020 combines those five teams into two with a focus on further developing and integrating the sensors onto vehicle platforms and demonstrating remote operation capability. The teams will work in parallel to field their concepts during Phase 2 and ultimately deliver an operational capability to the CBF by the end of the year.

Through the use of the following technologies and off-the-shelf hardware, the teams aim to develop capable solutions that meet the parameters of the CBF’s annual operating budget:

  • Acoustic monitoring
  • Surface and underwater remotely-operated vehicles
  • Image processing
  • Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning

Are you interested technology and innovation? We are, too. Check out Northrop Grumman environmental career opportunities and consider joining our team.