By Karen Johnson, ICC Communications Director
Underwater acoustic communication has been in use for decades, but primarily for military applications. In recent years, private sectors such as environmental monitoring, off-shore oil and gas exploration, and aquaculture have become interested in its possibilities.
But existing research about underwater acoustic communication networks often relies on human-operated surface ships or cost-prohibitive autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). And these cost barriers can limit academic research evaluation to computer simulations, constraining research innovation towards practical applications.
Recognizing the above gap, Michigan Tech Institute of Computing and Cybersystems (ICC) researchers Zhaohui Wang, assistant professor, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Nina Mahmoudian, adjunct professor, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics, saw an opportunity to combine their areas of expertise: for Wang, underwater acoustic communications, for Mahmoudian, low-cost marine robotics and AUVs.
Also part of the research team were PhD student Li Wei, Electrical and Computer Engineering, and post-doc research engineer Barzin Moridian, Mechanical Engineering-Engineering Mechanics. The team also collaborated with scientists at Michigan Tech’s Great Lakes Research Center.
With a $50K seed grant from Electrical and Computer Engineering alumnus Paul Williams ’61, the team took the research beneath the surface to develop a low-cost marine mobile infrastructure and investigate the challenges and possible solutions in engineering a leading-edge AUV communication network.
They broke it down into three areas: the development of low-cost, high-modularity autonomous surface vehicles (ASVs), each equipped with a collection of sensors and serving as surrogates for AUVs; equipping each ASV with an acoustic modem and implementing communication and networking protocols to facilitate underwater communication among the vessels; and conducting field experiments to collect data about the fundamental challenges in mobile acoustic communications and networking among AUVs.
The team’s outcomes included two low-cost, autonomous, on-the-water boats; an experimental data set, data analysis, and preliminary results; a technical paper presented at the 2018 IEEE OES Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Symposium; and a marine mobile wireless networking infrastructure for use in continued research.
Just half of their seed grant has been used, and this summer Wang and Mahmoudian will work to improve the boats and the communications system, and conduct more field research. In addition, they are planning to write two National Science Foundation proposals to take their research even further.
Download a summary of the research from the ICC website at icc.mtu.edu/downloads.
Seed grant donor Paul Williams is also the benefactor of the Paul and Susan Williams Center for Computer Systems Research, located on the fifth floor of the Electrical Energy Resources Center. The 10,000-square-foot, high-performance computing center—the home of the ICC—was established to foster close collaboration among researchers across multiple disciplines at Michigan Tech
The ICC, founded in 2015, promotes collaborative, cross-disciplinary research and learning experiences in the areas of cyber-physical systems, cybersecurity, data sciences, human-centered computing, and scalable architectures and systems. It provides faculty and students the opportunity to work across organizational boundaries to create an environment that mirrors contemporary technological innovation.
Five research centers comprise the ICC. The ICC’s 50 members, who represent 15 academic units at Michigan Tech, are collaborating to conduct impactful research, make valuable contributions in the field of computing, and solve problems of critical national importance.
Visit the ICC website at icc.mtu.edu. Contact the ICC at firstname.lastname@example.org or 906-487-2518.