Inside Unmanned Systems

JUN-JUL 2018

Inside Unmanned Systems provides actionable business intelligence to decision-makers and influencers operating within the global UAS community. Features include analysis of key technologies, policy/regulatory developments and new product design.

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48   June/July 2018 unmanned systems inside MARINE COMMUNICATIONS I ncreasingly, robots not only soar through the air and wander over the land, but they also swim on and un- der the water. Now scientists in Florida are developing a wireless communica- tions network to connect marine robots together in real time, whether they are on the water's surface, flying in the sky or lurking underwater. Nowadays, unmanned aerial aircraft systems (UAS) and those operating on land regularly communicate using ra- dio waves from satellites, cell towers and WiFi. However, radio waves gen- erally can't penetrate deeply through water. This means a lot of the things easily done when operating drones and unmanned ground systems, such as controlling them remotely or using GPS for navigation, are far more dif- ficult with underwater systems. Instead of relying on radio waves, sound waves are the preferred signals for subsurface communications over distances greater than 100 meters. "Sound propagates as a pressure wave with speeds in the water that range from 1,450 to 1,498 meters per second," or about 3,240 to 3,350 miles per hour, said George Sklivanitis, a research assistant professor of com- puter and electrical engineering and computer science at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton. In the water, "sound can easily travel over kilome- ters, or even hundreds of kilometers." Researchers are using acoustic and satellite signals to create a wireless network that could connect unmanned systems under the water, on the water's surface and in the air. by Charles Q. Choi An Underwater Acoustic Network for Unmanned Vehicles and evaluate a test bed for subsurface marine modems to connect autono- mous undersea vehicles (AUVs), auton- omous water-surface vehicles (ASVs), UAS and satellites. "Imagine you have an underwater asset, like a submarine vehicle or a diver, and you want to communicate with another underwater asset," said Dimitris Pados, co-principal inves- tigator of the project and a professor of computer and electrical engineer- ing and computer science at Florida Atlantic University. "You can envision a network where you can get informa- tion acoustically from the bottom of the water to another asset on the surface of the water, like a buoy, and it can com- municate with radio-frequency signals across the air fast, can go to a satellite even. So you could communicate from one point on the bottom of the sea to another all the way on the other side of the Earth in almost real-time." Ideally, underwater acoustic net- works could ser ve as communica- tions and positioning systems to con- trol underwater vehicles "for search and rescue, remote wireless naviga- tion and sur veillance operations," Sklivanitis said. "YOU COULD COMMUNICATE FROM ONE POINT ON THE BOTTOM OF THE SEA TO ANOTHER ALL THE WAY ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE EARTH IN ALMOST REAL-TIME." Dimitris Pados, co-principal investigator and professor, Florida Atlantic University BY THE NUMBERS 3,240 to 3,350 miles per hour The speed at which sound propagates under water. Source: George Sklivanitis, research assistant professor, Florida Atlantic University MARINE MODEMS To help develop new and improved un- derwater acoustic networks, scientists at Florida Atlantic University received a $500,000 grant from the National Science Foundation. The aim of the four-year project is to design, deploy

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