Wireless sensor networks using radio technology are used to gather data in many applications for infrastructure monitoring, environment monitoring and security. However this technology cannot be directly applied under water since radio waves are absorbed by water. Technologies exist for underwater communication using acoustic waves (sound) to carry data but this is a complex and demanding task requiring sophisticated processing. Hence these devices are expensive (£5-20k), bulky and power hungry which has generally limited their use to relatively small numbers and short duration. This has prevented the large scale deployment of sensor networks underwater despite huge demand for monitoring of subsea assets and the marine environment.
The aim of this project is to create a smart underwater sensing framework based on ultra-low-cost underwater communication and sensing devices ('smart dust'). Pilot studies at Newcastle University have demonstrated the feasibility of producing underwater acoustic communication devices known as "nanomodems" which use novel approaches to signal processing to vastly reduce hardware complexity, size and cost. These have manufacturing cost as low as £50, very low receiver power consumption, to enable long life from small batteries, and tiny dimensions. However they can achieve data transfer and positioning capabilities found in much more expensive devices, over distances up to 1km through water.
To maximise the impact of the project, an open test-bed will be created near the Northumberland coast. Potential end-users from across the subsea sector will be invited to take part in a series of workshops to identify new opportunities in distributed underwater sensing, which will be prototyped and evaluated via trials using the test-bed. The ultimate measurable objective of the project will be to demonstrate a step change in the efficiency of subsea data gathering. This will be defined in terms of the data delivered (volume, quality, coverage) versus overall cost of operations (hardware cost, boat time, staff time, infrastructure cost).
Newcastle University’s Nanomodem (SEAlab Newcastle)
- Paul Mitchell
- Yuriy Zakharov
- Nils Morozs
- June 2017 to May 2020
- Newcastle University (lead partner), Principal Investigator: Jeff Neasham
- Heriot-Watt University
- University of York
- Proserv (Nautronix)
- Subsea 7 Limited
- TECHNIP-COFLEXIP UK HOLDINGS LIMITED