Research

Improving Underwater Communications

Improving Underwater Communications

The commercialisation of Newcastle University's pioneering research in underwater acoustic communication has created market leading products in the subsea industry.

Technology developed by Jeff Neasham and colleagues from the School of Electrical and Electronic Engineering has been incorporated into a range of products that have revolutionised underwater communications.

One of these is the MicronNav, manufactured under licence by UK company Tritech International Ltd. It has become the preferred solution for tracking underwater remotely operated vehicles manufactured by companies including Seabotix Inc and Videoray Inc, with over £2m of licensed products sold to date.

Electrical and Electronic Engineering
Photo of electronics

Previously impossible subsea operations

The research has improved underwater transmission, both in terms of range and reliability. In addition, the development of a number of bespoke, high performance data telemetry systems has also enabled previously impossible subsea operations to be completed.

Originally developed for communicating with subsea vehicles or instruments, the technology has been further miniaturised for use in devices designed to improve diver safety.

VIDEO: Improving underwater communications

Virtual dive buddy

Newcastle’s technology enables an underwater robot to act as a virtual dive buddy. The robot:

  • monitors the diver
  • guides and navigates
  • assists with tasks
  • carries equipment
  • tracks and follows the diver

The diver can exchange data and commands with the robot using an underwater tablet.

The technology has now been commercialised as the Seatrac range of products, manufactured under licence by UK company Blueprint Subsea.

Device helps rescue divers

A prototype, named DiveTrack, showed how a small, low-cost device could enable a diver in difficulty to send a distress signal to a boat up to 1km away. This alerts the crew to the diver's location.

DiveTrack won an international design competition in 2007 and the British Sub Aqua Club (BSAC) described it as ‘one of the most significant contributions to diver safety in the last 50 years.

The team went on to become involved in an ambitious European research project to develop a new generation of miniature subsea devices. They aimed to make dive missions safer and more efficient by enabling divers and underwater robots to cooperate with one another.

Discover More

Contact Information

Jeff Neasham
Email: jeff.neasham@ncl.ac.uk
Telephone: +44 (0) 191 208 8850