Release Date
November 29th, 2023
Open Date
January 3rd, 2024
Due Date(s)
February 21st, 2024
Close Date
February 21st, 2024
Topic No.


Forces Afloat Man Overboard Persons in the Water (PIWs) Recovery


Department of DefenseN/A


Type: SBIRPhase: BOTHYear: 2024


The Department of Defense (DOD) is seeking proposals for the topic "Forces Afloat Man Overboard Persons in the Water (PIWs) Recovery" as part of the SBIR 24.1 BAA. The objective of this solicitation is to develop and deliver a prototype technology that improves the identification, location, and tracking of individuals in the water from afloat assets. The technology should be able to work with current systems for recovering PIWs on all active afloat assets and integrate with modern GPS technology. It should also provide continuous accountability for up to five PIWs and have the ability to provide uninterrupted live audio/video communication or other display methods in real-time. The goal is to increase the probability of detection and maintain situational awareness of PIWs through recovery, ultimately increasing safety and effectiveness for PIWs, equipment, and rescue personnel. The project will be conducted in two phases, with Phase I focusing on concept development and Phase II involving the development and delivery of a prototype. The work under Phase II may be classified. The Phase III objective is to transition the technology for Navy use, with potential dual-use applications in commercial markets related to communication systems and at-sea lifesaving equipment. The solicitation is closed, and more information can be found on the DOD SBIR website.




The technology within this topic is restricted under the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), 22 CFR Parts 120-130, which controls the export and import of defense-related material and services, including export of sensitive technical data, or the Export Administration Regulation (EAR), 15 CFR Parts 730-774, which controls dual use items. Offerors must disclose any proposed use of foreign nationals (FNs), their country(ies) of origin, the type of visa or work permit possessed, and the statement of work (SOW) tasks intended for accomplishment by the FN(s) in accordance with the Announcement. Offerors are advised foreign nationals proposed to perform on this topic may be restricted due to the technical data under US Export Control Laws.


OBJECTIVE: Develop and deliver a prototype technology that leverages existing technologies and improves identification, location and tracking of all persons in the water (PIWs) from afloat assets operating up to sea state five (5) and distances up to ten nautical miles. Later stages of development could seek to integrate the improved performance with other means to support staging and recovery operations.


DESCRIPTION: The proposed technology must be able to work with current systems for recovering PIW on all active afloat assets and be capable of operating with modern Global Positioning System (GPS) technology. It should be able to discriminate individual PIWs but also able to provide continuous accountability for up to five (5) PIWs. The ability to provide uninterrupted live audio/video communication or any display methods such as infrared, thermal, opacity or others in real-time between the afloat asset and PIWs throughout recovery operations would be favorably evaluated.


The current Navy system for Man Overboard / PIWs responds to these incidents that occur when afloat assets with personnel onboard operate at sea is referred to as Man Over-Board Indicator (MOBI) system. MOBI uses a transmitter attached to personal flotation devices (PFDs) that transmit a signal to the MOBI antenna on the afloat asset. The current MOBI system sounds an alarm on the bridge for the PIWs within three (3) seconds of activation and continues alerting for up to one (1) nautical mile (NM), and provides bearing(s) for PIWs for up to five (5) NM or greater depending on the height of the receiving antenna. A secondary indicator for PIWs is a strobe light illuminating from the PFD in the water. The recovery time for PIWs varies as a function of many factors such as maneuverability of afloat asset type, sea state, visibility and skill of the rescue operators executing the recovery mission. The current recovery procedures for PIWs are resource intensive and pose additional risk to rescue personnel. The objective of this topic is to increase probability of detection and maintain situational awareness of PIWs through recovery, with long term objective of increasing safety and effectiveness to PIWs, equipment, and rescue personnel.


Improvements are needed to increase the survivability of PIWs and enhance rescue operations. The objective alert time for PIWs should remain at three (3) seconds with threshold of not more than five (5) seconds. The objective is to maintain positive identification of PIWs at a threshold of (1) NM and objective of (10) NM. The PIWs’ location bearing updates must be continuous in order to maintain an accurate track. Other methods of data collection to improve future location accuracy would also receive favorable evaluation.


Work produced in Phase II may become classified. Note: The prospective contractor(s) must be U.S. owned and operated with no foreign influence as defined by 32 U.S.C. § 2004.20 et seq., National Industrial Security Program Executive Agent and Operating Manual, unless acceptable mitigating procedures can and have been implemented and approved by the Defense Counterintelligence and Security Agency (DCSA) formerly Defense Security Service (DSS). The selected contractor must be able to acquire and maintain a secret level facility and Personnel Security Clearances. This will allow contractor personnel to perform on advanced phases of this project as set forth by DCSA and NAVSEA in order to gain access to classified information pertaining to the national defense of the United States and its allies; this will be an inherent requirement. The selected company will be required to safeguard classified material during the advanced phases of this contract IAW the National Industrial Security Program Operating Manual (NISPOM), which can be found at Title 32, Part 2004.20 of the Code of Federal Regulations. Reference: National Industrial Security Program Executive Agent and Operating Manual (NISP), 32 U.S.C. § 2004.20 et seq. (1993).


PHASE I: Develop a concept to improve the survivability of PIWs with enhanced information and accuracy of location to provide continuous and as near real-time detail as modern technology would enable. The signaling device(s) should have the capability to monitor up to five (5) PIWs in proximal succession, regardless of whether they are outfit with wearable locator technology, at the discretion of rescue operators’ to preserve safety of life at sea to the maximum extent possible. Capabilities must demonstrate at least threshold functions up to sea state five (5) and in zero visibility by natural human sight. Demonstrate the feasibility of the concept in meeting Navy needs and establish that the concept can be developed into a useful product for the Navy as well as other seafaring vessels. The Phase I Option, if exercised, will include the initial design specifications and capabilities description to build a prototype solution in Phase II.


PHASE II: Develop and deliver a prototype and demonstrate that it can meet the needs of the Navy. Initial testing of the system can be on subscale demonstrators progressing to a full-scale model. The location of and facility for testing will be determined during this Phase. Testing must demonstrate performance, environmental robustness, shipboard shock, vibration, sea-state survivability, and maintainability. Product performance will be demonstrated through prototype evaluation, modeling, and demonstration over the required range of parameters. An extended test in the maritime environment will be used to refine the prototype into a design that will meet Navy requirements. Prepare a Phase III manufacturing and development plan to transition the product for Navy use.


It is probable that the work under this effort will be classified under Phase II. See note in Description.


PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Support the Navy in transitioning the new system with operational support systems (hardware and software) to Navy use. Manufacture and install on a candidate Nimitz Class / Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier or other suitable and available afloat asset for in-situ test and evaluation. Plan to produce units to outfit all naval aircraft carriers initially but should be scalable for commercially-viable military adaptation on any Navy sea platform.


Commercial markets with adjacent technology would be any vendor or technology developer focusing on communication systems and at sea lifesaving equipment or similar related industries that support these.



Schuldt, Dieter and Kurucar, Joel. “Maritime Search and Rescue via Multiple Coordinated UAS.” MIT Lincoln Laboratory, June 12, 2017.
Giammarco, Kristin; Hunt, Spencer and Whitcomb, Clifford. “An Instructional Design Reference Mission for Search and Rescue Operations.” Naval Postgraduate School, September 2015.
BriarTek Incorporated (N.D.) “Shipcheck/Installation Brief for Man Overboard Indicator (MOBI) System.”


KEYWORDS: Man-Over Board; Person in the water; Water Recovery