Underwater Sensor Communications Technology

Subject: Environment
Type: Expository Essay
Pages: 7
Word count: 1462
Topics: Environmental Issues, Communication, Computer Science


Underwater wireless communications is data transmission that is in an unguided water environment effected by various wireless carriers such as acoustic wave, radio-frequency (RF) wave and optical wave. The underwater optical wireless communication (UOWC) usually offers much higher transmission bandwidth at a higher data rate. The technology involves various approaches as well as challenges in their design as well as implementation of UOWC. 

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About 70 percent of the earth surface is always covered with water leading to the humans’ exploration of the oceans. This has brought about a growing interest in extensive research of ocean exploration system. The research revealed the underwater wireless communication technology that facilitates the awareness of ocean exploration systems thereby attracting more attention (Hua Yu et al, 2014). The wireless information transmission that is done through the ocean is an enabling technology for the future development of ocean monitoring systems and sensor networks. The underwater wireless sensing systems are envisage for stand-alone controls of autonomous underwater vehicles (Berger, et al, 2010).

Underwater communications technologies 

There are various applications of underwater networks such as terrestrial sensor networks. These are facilitated by various types of underwater communication technologies such as acoustic wave, radio-frequency (RF) wave and optical wave. There are advantages as well as disadvantages associated with underwater communications technologies.

Advantages and disadvantages of underwater communications technologies

Underwater communications technologiesAdvantages Disadvantages
  • More tolerant to water turbulence and turbidity
  • Relatively smooth transition to cross air/water boundaries 
  • Loose pointing requirements 
  •  Moderate data transmission rate at close distance
  • Bulky, costly and energy consuming transceivers Optical
  • Short link range 
  • High bit error rates
  • Long communication range up to 20 km 
  • Most widely used UWC technology
  • Low bit error rates
  • Harmful to some marine life
  •  Low data transmission rate (on the order of kbps) 
  •  Large communication latency (on the order of second) 
  • Bulky, costly and energy consuming transceivers
  • Immune to transmission latency 
  • Low bit error rates
  • Ultra-high data transmission 
  • Low cost and small volume transceivers (Chitre, Shahabudeen, & Stojanovic, 2008)  
  • Not able to  cross water/air boundary easily 
  • Moderate link range 
  • Suffers from severe absorption and scattering 


There are several techniques that have been developed to allow different stations to successfully share the resource but in separate signals coexisting in a common medium. In the design of resource-sharing system for underwater networks, we need to keep in mind the peculiar characteristics of the acoustic channel. Currently we have long delays, frequency-dependent attenuation as well as relatively long reach for acoustic signals (Domingo, 2008).  

There are various environmental conditions affecting the underwater communications. Communication signals propagating through the surf zone are usually affected by scattering from the reflection from the sea‐floor and absorption, the surface gravity waves as well as scattering by the clouds of bubbles from the breaking surf. In addition, the shoaling gravity wave creates focal regions in the surface reflected wavefronts, thereby producing systematic variations in the wavefront travel times.


With thorough research cheap computing with lower cost of advanced acoustic technology, communication and sensing, will help in exploring underwater sensing applications. There has been advanced research on underwater sensor networks although there are various challenges that still demand to be solved in future. With the development of various new approaches to communication, effective analysis as well as integration and testing of these ideas is paramount.

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