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Survey on Low-Cost Underwater Sensor Networks: From Niche Applications to Everyday Use

A need for low-cost acoustic communication and positioning systems has increased with the rise in affordable ROVs and AUVs in the market as these systems help to perform various tasks. In this paper, the authors explore different low-cost and low-power acoustic communication and positioning systems, including both university prototypes and commercial devices, with the goal of identifying what these devices can do!

Abstract: Traditionally, underwater acoustic modems and positioning systems were developed for military and Oil & Gas industries, that require deep water deployments and extremely reliable systems, focusing on high power expensive systems and leaving the use of low-cost devices only attractive for academic studies. Conversely, recent developments of low-cost unmanned vehicles, such as remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs), suitable for shallow water coastal missions, and the need of sensors network deployments for measuring water quality and studying the effect of climate change in coastal areas, called to the need of low-cost and low-power acoustic modems and positioning systems that are gaining more and more momentum to date. The use of these devices can enable a wide set of applications, often based on low-cost AUV swarm formations, where an acoustic link between the vehicles is required to coordinate the mission, perform the maneuvers, and maintain the formation along the time. Moreover, they can make environmental wireless sensor deployment cost effective by substituting wired systems. Underwater positioning systems, usually used in large-scale operations, can be finally applied to small-scale application thanks to the reduction in costs, at the price of a lower transmission and positioning range and precision. While in open-sea application this performance reduction is a huge limitation, in river, lagoon, port and lake deployments this is not an issue, given that the extremely shallow water and the presence of many obstacles would deteriorate the acoustic signal anyway, not allowing long range transmissions even with expensive and sophisticated acoustic devices. In this paper, we review the recent developments of low-cost and low-power acoustic communication and positioning systems, both analyzing University prototypes and new commercial devices available in the market, identifying advantages and limitations of these devices, and we describe potential new applications that can be enabled by these systems.

Author: Campagnaro, F.; Steinmetz, F.; Renner, B.

Journal: Journal of Marine Science and Engineering

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