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A Routing Scheme to Make Underwater Networks More Reliable

A new protocol salvages valuable data if one autonomous underwater vehicle fails in a fleet

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The ocean’s depths have long remained mysterious—a dark abyss where few humans go. But we still have a stake in this alien environment; scientists want to know where pockets of pollution are worst, and where earthquakes occur along the sea floor. Passive sensors can collect such data, but transmitting it in this murky environment is a challenge.

Guangjie Han at Hohai University and his colleagues have proposed a new approach for how autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) patrolling those depths can better collect data from these sensors. Their design was published 27 March in IEEE Transactions on Mobile Computing.

Each sensor, referred to as a node, sits stationary while it collects data. Meanwhile, a fleet of AUVs is dispatched across the network on a predetermined trajectory to collect data from each node.

Radio waves are absorbed by water, so underwater sensors and vehicles typically transmit and receive information by using acoustic signals. But sound waves cannot travel as fast or as far in water as radio waves can in the air.

And with more AUVs comes more challenges. “Particularly, it is difficult to communicate directly and synchronize the information among AUVs, due to the poor quality of underwater acoustic communication and short communication range,” Han says.

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