Posts Tagged Oceans

Underwater Communications: A 21st Century Upgrade

Posted by on Saturday, 27 February, 2010

A Cable Of Light For Undersea Exploration


Texting while driving a submarine? The captain should be so lucky.

Submarine communication is slow and dorky. If it works at all. Electromagnetic waves  get kinda sulky in the ocean; they dissipate too fast to be useful for underwater communications so subs rely on beeps and boops – audio signals – to keep in touch. Which is HOPELESSLY slow. You can’t do ANY of the things we surface dwellers are used to.  Like voice or video.

And, obviously, the cloud computing metaphor’s a little off down there with fish swimming by the porthole.

That’s why robot submersibles (remotely operated vehicles) tend to have an umbilicus – a stiff, heavy cable – which carries transmissions to and from the surface for data and for control of the submersible, itself.

"Squid" submersible (See all the cables?)

But a big cable isn’t exactly an invitation to live wild and free. It grossly limits how far the submersible can go and the kinds of missions it can undertake.

Norman E Farr, a senior engineer at Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has, with his team, worked out a  solution – an optical/acoustic network. It is high speed, wireless, and, apparently,  reliable. Farr and team expect to get started in July with the first large scale deployment of this VERY cool “underwater Internet”.

While “breakthrough” is an overused term, this project may just be one – a breakthrough in underwater communications.

ScienceAintSoBadRating = 10

Credits for photo of submersible: / CC BY 2.0