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INESC TEC and IPMA develop technology for autonomous deep-sea exploration

INESC TEC’s Centre for Telecommunications and Multimedia (CTM) and Centre for Robotics and Autonomous Systems (CRAS) – in partnership with the Portuguese Institute for Sea and Atmosphere (IPMA) – developed a new long-range and broadband underwater communications solution to support autonomous deep-sea exploration.

26th October 2021

The technology, developed within the scope of the GROW project, will enable flexibility in underwater operations and significantly reduce costs and delays in accessing data collected underwater, establishing a new communication paradigm to support the exploration of the seabed.

Greater knowledge of the seabed implies the development of new technologies, namely in the domains of underwater communications and underwater robotics. Moreover, the use of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) is increasingly becoming the standard way to carry out missions in this environment. This led the Portuguese researchers to design the GROW project. The solution developed combines short-range wireless technologies, AUVs that travel through the water column and act as data carriers, and acoustic communications, which allow the control of data transmission in real time. With this solution, it is possible to establish a wireless connection between the water surface and the seabed, with higher data transmission rates and lower latency than those obtained when using current procedures. The developed solution was tested in a real environment, at a depth of 20 meters, during a campaign that took place at the bay of Sesimbra, aboard the research vessel RV Diplodus. The tests allowed to demonstrate the benefits of the developed solution, namely when compared to those currently available, and to identify the new developments needed to bring the technology closer to its commercialisation.

Rui Campos, coordinator of the wireless networks area at INESC TEC, and head the project, said that this technology "has the potential to be used in various underwater scenarios, including environmental monitoring, underwater surveillance and Underwater infrastructure inspection".

The GROW project (started in October 2018 and ended in September 2021) received €240K from the Foundation for Science and Technology, bringing together a multidisciplinary team with INESC TEC researchers dedicated to wireless and robotics networks, and IPMA experts in the field of oceanographic research and marine geology.

The researcher mentioned in this news piece is associated with INESC TEC.