FarSounder filling new sonar testing tank

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By Brendan Lynch

MHTSonar technology company FarSounder Inc. has built a new testing facility near its headquarters in Warwick, R.I., and is already fielding calls from companies looking to use it for their own products.

The 1,250-square-foot structure, about three miles from the company's office, will house a 9-foot-diameter, 9-foot-deep, water-filled acoustic tank for testing underwater technology. FarSounder vice president of engineering Matt Zimmerman said he expects the facility to be operational within two to three weeks.

The company will use the facility to test its own 3-D sonar technology that can create a real-time image of the space ahead of a ship to help it avoid obstacles and threats.

"Because we have this facility, we'll do more tests than perhaps we might if we had to travel and rent a facility," he said.

The company had been renting facilities in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Zimmerman said the company conducts the tests on its FS-3 sonar product to calibrate its 96 sensors before shipping it to a customer. Having its own facility saves FarSounder the work of packing and transporting the products, Zimmerman said. "For a five-minute test, we were spending about 4.5 man hours," he said.

FarSounder also plans to rent out its facility to other companies, Zimmerman said, and has already had a few inquiries. One of those inquiries came from Scott Veitch, systems engineer at SubChem Systems Inc.

"Right now we're using Narragansett Bay," Veitch said. He said that if FarSounder's tank proved cost-effective, SubChem -- a University of Rhode Island spinout that makes submersible chemical analyzers -- could use the tank to test one-off prototypes.

Thorne Sparkman, managing director of the Slater Technology Fund, an early investor in FarSounder, said building its own test facility was a sign that FarSounder is a growing company "shedding its skin" and evolving.

"The more you can build stuff and test it, you can move faster," Sparkman said.