New technology allows submarine ’email’ plans


A way to submerged submarines to communicate with aircraft has been developed by researchers at MIT.

At present, it is difficult for plans to pick up underwater sonar signals, because it reflects on the surface of the water and rarely break.

Researchers have found high-frequency radar able to detect small ripples in the water, created by a normal speaker underwater.

This may leave lost flight recorders and submarines to communicate with aircraft.

Submarines communicate by using sonar waves, which travel well under water, but struggle to break through the surface.

Plans to communicate via radio signals that do not go in the water.

Currently, the submarine may surface to send messages – but this runs the risk of revealing their position. At times, the buoys are used for receiving signals, sonar and translate them into radio signals.

“In an attempt to cross the air-water border with the wireless signal has been an obstacle,” said Fadel Adib, from the MIT Media Lab.

The system developed at MIT uses a loudspeaker underwater to aim the sonar signals directly on the surface of the water, creating tiny ripples only a few micrometers in height.


These ripples can be detected by high frequency radar above the water, and decoded back into the message.

The researchers tested the idea in the pool and were able to successfully receive the diver’s messages from above the surface.

However, the system may take a long time to send a large amount of data and does not work when there are waves of height greater than 16 cm (6v) in the water.

“You can deal with days of calm, and to address certain water disorders. But… we need this to work all days and all weather conditions,” said Mr Adib.

Christine Daniloff/MIT

It is also the one that does not allow the aircraft to send messages to the submarine.

The researchers hope to develop algorithms able to eliminate the “noise” of a wavy ocean, and isolate the tiny ripples in the sonar messages.

In the future, it may help the planes or drones to detect the position of a submerged “black box” flight recorder.