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High-Bandwidth Underwater Communications

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The rapid exchange of data with underwater sensors and systems is increasingly valuable for oceanography, oil exploration and other investigations of undersea phenomena. This paper reviews the potential, as well as the limitations, of acoustic, radio-frequency electromagnetic, fiber-optical and free-space optical techniques for high-bandwidth, undersea communication. In particular, we discuss the environmental and hardware attributes that bound the performance of free-space optical communications in a variety of undersea scenarios. Free-space optical approaches are capable of providing data bandwidths approaching 109 bits per second (bps) under suitable environmental conditions. More commonly, 10-100 × 106 bps can be achieved over ranges approaching 100 meters. Turbid water and high-ambient light conditions (primarily from downwelling sunlight) pose a serious challenge to performance at moderate and long ranges.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: March 1, 2008

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  • The Marine Technology Society Journal is the flagship publication of the Marine Technology Society. It publishes the highest caliber, peer-reviewed papers on subjects of interest to the society: marine technology, ocean science, marine policy and education. The Journal is dedicated to publishing timely special issues on emerging ocean community concerns while also showcasing general interest and student-authored works.
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