Terrestrial Wi-Fi to Boost Underwater Communications

Underwater “acoustic Wi-Fi” won’t work at the same speed as Wi-Fi at an office desktop, but using the same technique does deliver more robust signals and higher data throughput,” said Hanson.

“Because the speed of sound in water is orders of magnitude slower than electromagnetic waves in the atmosphere, acoustic signals will never achieve the data throughput we enjoy with radio. But by using advanced OFDM algorithms, we can expect enough increase in data rate to enable new operational capabilities,” said Hanson.

Offshore Opportunities

Opportunities that AquaSeNT sees in the oil and gas space include mobile platforms such as autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV), which can only be communicated with wirelessly. Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROV) typically have power and fiber optic cables connecting them with an operator onboard the surface vessel, but can benefit from acoustic wireless for data collection from subsea sensors. There is discussion in the oil and gas industry of a tetherless ROV, that has the functional capabilities of traditional ROVs but can operate for a period of time without the cable; this concept can also benefit from higher data rate wireless communication to enable new missions.

Hanson said the company envisions an AUV or a remotely operated vehicle flying through an undersea field, acquiring an “underwater GPS” fix, taking photographic images, collecting data, and communicating with any number of nodes attached to subsea trees or manifolds or valves or sensor packages.

Currently, no acoustic data telemetry systems today can support video at a range that delivers practical benefit. With an OFDM modem running at high data rates, over short range, Hanson said a “freeze frame” video is possible, with an image update every few seconds. Research and development is still underway, and the company has methodologies that AquaSeNT believes holds promise of a delivering a quality image at a range that is useful to subsea engineers.

Hanson walked the show floor at the Offshore Technology Conference (OTC) in Houston in 2013, but wanted to conduct further testing before displaying the technology at OTC. At this point, the company feels confident in the reliability of its technology, and at this year’s OTC, provided information on AquaSeNT at the UConn booth at OTC’s academic showcase.

“We are an independent company, but we also maintain close connection to UConn and wanted to show we are part of a broader university initiative for this industry,” said Hanson.


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