By: Mohd Faizal Abd Rahman


In recent years, underwater communication has become an active research area as there is still a big gap between the communication technology for terrestrial and underwater application [1-4]. Researchers and scientists have continually put a massive effort exploring the underwater world. The advancement in underwater technology helps human to understand better about a place that has totally different environment in terms of its nature, creatures, composition and physics. The growing research for underwater application has drawn interests of many sectors and industries around the world; government- based or private sector. Among the sectors that benefited much from the advancement of this technology are military, oil and gas industries, fisheries, underwater instrumentation companies, research agency etc. Works such as seismic monitoring, underwater robot operation, underwater surveillance and detection, sea exploration, ocean mapping and research data collection are also getting easier due to this advancement [1-4].

Communication is the most important process in underwater technology. The process enables the data transfer between two or more groups/entities. These data are used for navigation, tactical strategies, monitoring, identification etc. Communication can be established either by wired or wireless connection. Both methods have their own advantages and disadvantages, depending on the application. Current trend has opted wireless communication as the preferred way especially when it comes to deal with the depth that wired connection is not practical or impossible.


As for terrestrial application, the underwater wireless communication is not a straight forward process. When considering the underwater communication process, the primary concern that researchers always consider are the channel model(underwater), attenuation, transmission distance, power consumption, SNR ratio, bit error, symbol interference, error coding, modulation strategies, instrumentation and underwater interferences. Dealing with interferences for underwater research is a complex task due to dynamic nature of water. Interferences are mainly caused by three major factors:

1 Characteristics of signal carrier
In underwater world, there are 3 types of carrier wave that are most commonly used in wireless communication [1-4].

i. Electromagnetic wave
Using electromagnetic wave, the communication can be established at higher frequency and bandwidth. The limitation is due to high absorption/attenuation that has significant effect on the transmitted signal. Big antenna also needed for this type of communication, thus affects the design complexity and cost.

ii. Optical wave
Optical wave also offers high data rate transmission. Nevertheless, the signal is rapidly absorbed in water and suffers from scattering effect [1-4]. This will affect the data transmission accuracy.

iii. Acoustic wave
Acoustic is the most preferred signal used as carrier by many application, owing to its low absorption characteristic for underwater communication. Even though the data transmission is slower compared to other carrier signal, the low absorption characteristic enables the carrier to travel at longer range as less absorption faced by the carrier.

2 Environment/Propagation Medium
Unlike the communication in terrestrial application, for underwater wave propagation, the challenges are quite different. Water itself has become the main source for the signal interference. The type of water (freshwater/sea water), depth pressure, dissolved impurities, water composition and temperature affect the sound propagation. Common terrestrial phenomena like scattering, reflection, refraction also occurs underwater communication.

3 Instrumentation System Devices.
In ensuring the effective underwater communication, the communication system design plays a vital role. Factors such as transducer parameters (sensitivity, power consumption, noise immunity, transduction mechanism, directivity, resolution and properly matched impedance must be taken into account during the design process. One of the important areas that worth focusing on is the receiver (sensor) design. Nowadays, with the advancement in electronic technology, the transducer design (especially receiver) can adopt MEMS technology to overcome several sensor issues that proves to have several advantages compared to the conventional approach [7]. It is found to have many advantages compared to the conventional design.

Although the complete system for underwater communication has been around throughout various applications, nevertheless, research in this field is still going on due to the diversity of its research area. Research in this field can be said as an ongoing research as technology advancement in instrumentation element such as sensor, transceiver, signal processing unit and communication modem has always changed rapidly. Researchers are competing in developing a better system with better performance.

One example is an effort carried out by a group of researchers from Micro and Nanotechnology lab, University of Illinois. They have come out with a miniature acoustic communication system prototype with the suitability to be used underwater. Its operation has been tested in two different applications to verify its functionality [6].

In instrumentation system point of view, power consumption becomes one of the main concerns when developing a complete system. A system with low power consumption is admirable and leads to a cost and energy efficient system. Several important parameters should be considered in order to minimise the power consumption. Nejah et al [5] proposed the optimal parameter to overcome this situation. Right selection of carrier frequency is one of the approaches that can be utilised to optimize the power consumption. The paper also discussed the relationship between several important parameters such as attenuation, distance, frequencies and transmission loss.


In today’s world, many electronic devices are designed to be small. In most cases, small devices offer several advantages over the conventional approach. In electronic industries, the manufacturers are competing to produce a device with better performance and in smaller size. This scenario has alleviated the IC and MEMS technology to grow faster in electronic industries. Until now, most of the application that utilize this approach mainly focuses in imaging industries owing to the fact that this type of sensor can offer a high bandwidth and sensitivity [9].

However, the realisation of MEMS in underwater communication especially in sensor design could be a worth effort to bridge the gap between the terrestrial and underwater communication system. The significance of this effort has been reviewed in [7].

Reduction in size has offered a lot of advantages in terms of it s power consumption, portability, production and cost. Even though the exploration of this approach in underwater communication is still new, the possibilities of this new approach to be implemented is technically possible. The main contribution is due to its ability to overcome the problem caused by the size and power consumption. In Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) for example, the utilisation of MEMS device with smaller battery will reduce the overall weight of the AUV, thus reducing the power needed to drive the vehicles. Many researchers in underwater communication system are mainly concentrating on other aspect such as overall system development, communication protocol, signal processing and conventional transducers. Therefore MEMS based sensor for underwater communication provide a new platform for researchers to explore more of what this technology can offer and it can be thought of as a new research area that require an extensive studies and could contribute to many novel outcome.

Until now, most of the application that utilize this approach mainly focuses in imaging industries owing to the fact that this type of sensor can offer a high bandwidth and sensitivity [9].

Aside from imaging, MEMS based sensor is also thought be worthwhile if it can also be implemented for communication purposes, especifically for underwater.


[1] M.Stojanovic.,”Acoustic (underwater) communications,” in Encyclopedia of Telecommunications, Ed. John Wiley and Sons, 2003

[2] Liu,L et al. (2008). Prospects and Problems of Wireless Communication for Underwater Sensor Networks, Invited Paper Wiley WCMC, pp 977-994

[3] I.F.Akyildiz,D.Pompili,T.Melodia (2005). Underwater Acoustic Sensor Networks:Research Challenges. Ad Hoc Networks Vol 3, 257-279,

[4] J. Heidemann, W. Ye, J. Wills, A. Syed, Y. Li, Research challenges and applications for underwater sensor networking, in: Proceedings of the IEEE Wireless Communications and Networking Conference, IEEE, Las Vegas, NV, USA, Vol 1,2006, pp. 228-235

[5] Nasri,N.,Kachouri,A,L.M.Samet,(2008) Design Considerations For Wireless Underwater Communication Transceiver, ICSCS08,1-5

[6] Pandya, S., Engel, J., Chen, J., Fan, Z., and Liu, C. CORAL: Miniature acoustic communication subsystem architecture for underwater wireless sensor networks. 4th IEEE Conference on Sensors (Irvine, CA, Oct. 2005). Proceedings of the 4th IEEE Conference on Sensors (2005).

[7] Arshad,M.A.,(2009) ,Recent Advancement in Sensor Technology for Underwater Application. Vol 38,IJMS09. January 2009, 267-273.

[8] O.Oralken et all.,Underwater Acoustic Imaging using Capacitive Micromachined Ultrasonic Transducer Arrays. OCEANS02, Vol.4,2354-2360, 2002

[9] J.Chen et al.,A Capacitive Micromachined Ultrasonic Transducer Array for Minimally Invasive Medical Diagnosis, Journal of MEMS Systems, Vol.17,2008



july 1a


Shahril Rizal Hassan
Research Officer, Postgraduate Student (MSc.)
B.Eng in Mechatronic Engineering (USM)
Project Title: Design and Development of an Autonomous Surface Vehicle.




Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) is one of the branches of fluid mechanics that uses numerical methods and algorithms to solve and analyze problems that involve fluid flows. Computers are used to perform the millions of calculations required to simulate the interaction of liquids and gases with surfaces defined by boundary conditions. Even with high-speed supercomputers only approximate solutions can be achieved in many cases. Ongoing research, however, may yield software that improves the accuracy and speed of complex simulation scenarios such as transonic or turbulent flows. Initial validation of such software is often performed using a wind tunnel with the final validation coming in flight test [1].

Computational Fluid Dynamic (CFD) has played an important role as a tool to help the engineer and designer to achieve a better understanding of physic aspects of fluid flow and to visualizing the flow in the area that difficult to adopt using other measuring technique [2]. The design or selection of USVs hull is differ from any other large engineering structure because it must be design to move effectively through the water with minimal of external resistance. The hull form that optimum in calm water is not necessarily perform well in rough sea water condition. Therefore, the CFD analysis is needed to analyze the performance of USVs hull in calm and rough condition.

The objective of this article is to give an overview of modeling technique for Unmanned Surface vessel (USVs) hull hydrodynamics and their interaction with wave while in maneuvering.


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The important challenge for numerical method in general is to gain the confident in the simulation results, which required verification and validation studies [3]. The 3D sketch of USVs hull used in simulation is show in figure 1. For this article the flow of water is study in positive x-direction while moving forward and positive y-direction when the water is toward the starboard side of the hull is neglect.

From the CFD analysis on the hull above, the drag force on the hull is measuring to know the minimum force need to maneuver the USVs. The drag force for USVs hull can be obtaining using:

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Where july 1d the drag force is measured in N (Newton) and july 1eis the drag coefficient measured in N/m. Table 1 shows the drag force result obtain from CDF analysis.

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Table 1: Drag force analysis


Drag force calculation using computer fluid dynamics were performed based on a CAD model for vessel hull. The hull is sketch using SOLIDWORK software and exported to GAMBIT that used for mesh generation and to prescribe boundary condition. Finally the FLUENT software is used for perform the analysis.

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Based on table 1, the value of drag force is presented at different wave velocity. The drag force on hull is increased when velocity increased. Based on the result, the minimum thrust produced by propeller need to maneuvering the USVs can be determined for different wave velocity. Therefore, the power consuming by the USVs can be minimize and user can obtain how longer operation time available for vehicle at different condition. Besides that, result from this analysis can give advantage on designing the control algorithm for USVs and also useful in process to developed the System Identification Process.

This article only addresses some of the most recent results on numerical fluid dynamic modeling obtained by using CFD.



[2] C. L. R. Siqueira, N. Spogis, R. Damian, M. Reis “OVERVIEW OF CFD MODELLING FOR SHIP HULL INTERACTIONS WITH WAVES AND PROPELLERS” in 3th International workshop on Applied offshore hydrodynamics.

[3] M. Salas, R. Luco, P. K Sahoo, N. Browne and M. López “Experimental and CFD Resistance Calculation of a Small Fast Catamaran” in Proc. of High Performance Yacht Design Conference

New Sensor Detects Direction of Sound Underwater

VOLUME 3, MAY 2010


vol2 aug4


Muzammer Zakaria

Research Officer, Postgraduate Student (MSc.)
B.Eng in Mechatronic Engineering (USM)




New Sensor Detects Direction of Sound Underwater

Using optical fibers, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have created a sensor that detects the direction from which a sound is coming under water—an important improvement over current technology. Credit: Georgia Institute of Technology.


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A new sensor that measures the motion created by sound waves under water could allow the U.S. Navy to develop compact arrays to detect the presence of enemy submarines. These new arrays would detect quiet underwater targets, while also providing unambiguous directional information.

Using optical fibers, researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology have found a way to create a sensor that detects the direction from which a sound is coming under water. This directional component is an important improvement over the current technology, researchers said.

“Detecting quiet sounds under water can be very difficult,” said Francois Guillot, a research engineer in Georgia Tech’s George W. Woodruff School of Mechanical Engineering. “But our sensor detects small sounds over the noise of the ocean and also provides directional information.”

The sensor uses a mechanism inspired by how fish hear under water. Inside a fish’s ear, there are thousands of tiny hairs that move when a sound wave passes through the fish. These hairs then communicate with nerves allowing fish to hear under water. Because fish excel at detecting sound so they don’t get eaten, the Georgia Tech researchers chose the fish hearing system as their model, they said.

Guillot described the novel underwater sensor late last fall at the 4th joint meeting of the Acoustical Society of America and the Acoustical Society of Japan in Honolulu, Hawaii. His presentation was part of a session titled “Underwater Acoustics: Array Processing, Sensors, and Technology.”

In the field of underwater acoustics, there is always a need to develop more sophisticated sensors, researchers said. The Navy currently tows long lines of hydrophones to listen to sound under water—much like a microphone listens to sound in the air. A hydrophone measures the pressure change associated with the propagation of a sound wave. It converts acoustic energy into electrical energy and is used in passive underwater systems to listen only. One hydrophone identifies a sound nearby, and multiple hydrophones can help tell the direction from which it’s coming. But directional ambiguity exists. A line array of hydrophones cannot tell if the sound is coming from the left or right.

Guillot and collaborators David Trivett, a principal research scientist, and Peter Rogers, a professor—both in the School of Mechanical Engineering—have developed a more compact, more sensitive sound detector that can provide unambiguous directional information. In addition, the sensor can be modified to measure the water deformation, known as shear, associated with a sound wave— a quantity typically difficult to measure because it requires very sensitive instruments. This new sensor shows promise that it can be successfully modified to detect this acoustic shear, which will enhance the directional information, the researchers said.

The sensor is designed with two small plates attached by a hinge. One plate is held rigidly, and the other plate—made of a composite material with the same density as water—is free to move. The freely moving plate shifts in the sound field and follows the motion of water. A light signal sent through an optical fiber glued to both plates is modified by the motion of the freely moving plate. Analyzing the light signal with a photodetector provides information relative to the sound waves.

The sensor developed at Georgia Tech offers advantages over existing systems, researchers said. Guillot hopes the new sensor changes the way the Navy detects sound under water.“If the Navy tows an array of hydrophones thousands of feet long, it makes it difficult to maneuver the ship,” Rogers said. “Since we can cut that length by a factor of more than five, it will cost less money to operate and be easier to handle.”

The current prototype sensor has been tested in the School of Mechanical Engineering’s large underwater acoustic tank facility to observe the behavior of the sensor under water. The facility includes a rectangular concrete water tank 25 feet deep, 25 feet wide and 34 feet long; it contains about 160,000 gallons of water. The researchers hope to field test the prototype system soon to see if it outperforms current technology.

Source: Georgia Institute of Technology






DROSOBOT: Swarm of mini ASVs with Animal-Inspired Algorithm for Marine Applications



june 1a


Zulkifli Zainal Abidin
Postgraduate Student(Phd)
B.Eng Computer and Information Engineering (International Islamic University Malaysia)
Project title: A Novel Fly Optimization Algorithm: Animal-inspired Metaheuristic



DROSOBOTS: Swarm of mini ASVs with Animal-Inspired Algorithm for Marine Applications

The study of animal behavior in their natural habitat has led to Animal-Inspired Metaheuristic Algorithms which may be adopted to be used in the development of Autonomous Surface Vehicles (ASVs). In this study, a new concept of an ASV is proposed, mimicking the predictable biological balancing nature of the Drosophila or the fruit fly.

Due to the factors of complexity in instrument deployment, expensive tools for marine applications, time and resources consuming for data collections, swarming concept is proposed by using mini ASVs namely Drosobots. The factors influencing the conceptual model, the choice of shape, the parameters influencing the control in the design, the practicalities encountered in navigational issues and mechanisms of communication amongst a group of these ASVs based upon the Drosophila’s optimal swarming movements are also investigated.

Even though the accuracy of the GPS is about 3 meters, compass sensor ±0.5°, and depth transducer ±15cm only, the trial results show that there is potential for the ASVs to be further developed for real applications such as the multi-agents usage for sea-bed mapping, mine-sweeping, environmental and oceanographic measurements, port security, oil spill tracking and search and rescue mission.


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