Engineer Explores Underwater Wireless Communications

When the Titanic sank, Woods Hole designed robotic vehicle was sent down, and it was attached to a long cable connecting it to a surface ship. The cables are very expensive and heavy, and they limit the movement of the robot.

wireless-communications“There was need to improve the wireless communication capacity of underwater robots. There are applications that would greatly benefit from the ability to communicate underwater without cables.” a newly hired electrical engineer, associate professor at Northeastern Stojanovic, said.

That applications could enhance the offshore oil industry to aquaculture to fishing industries, she noted. Additionally, pollution control, climate recording, ocean monitoring and detection of objects on the ocean floor are other areas that could benefit from enhanced underwater communications.

Her research focuses on finding better ways of transmitting acoustical signals in hopes of improving capacity to the point where underwater robots no longer have to be chained by a heavy, expensive communications cable, but can instead transmit their readings to other robots, or to shipboard researchers.

Stojanovic focuses her energies on creating clearer signals through “equalization” to solve the echo problem. For underwater instruments to communicate underwater, they must mimic the communication networks on land. Yet, the slow speed at which signals travel would turn an underwater conversation into garble, she said. “If multiple people talk at the same time, their signals will collide,” she said. “We need protocols that will orchestrate multiple conversations.”

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