Optical Engineering 49 1 , 015001 January 2010

Underwater optical wireless communication network
Shlomi Arnon, MEMBER SPIE Ben-Gurion University of the Negev Electrical and Computer Engineering Department Satellite and Wireless Communications Laboratory P.O. Box 653 Beer-Sheva, IL-84105, Israel E-mail: shlomi@ee.bgu.ac.il Abstract. The growing need for underwater observation and subsea monitoring systems has stimulated considerable interest in advancing the enabling technologies of underwater wireless communication and underwater sensor networks. This communication technology is expected to play an important role in investigating climate change, in monitoring biological, biogeochemical, evolutionary, and ecological changes in the sea, ocean, and lake environments, and in helping to control and maintain oil production facilities and harbors using unmanned underwater vehicles UUVs , submarines, ships, buoys, and divers. However, the present technology of underwater acoustic communication cannot provide the high data rate required to investigate and monitor these environments and facilities. Optical wireless communication has been proposed as the best alternative to meet this challenge. Models are presented for three kinds of optical wireless communication links: a a line-of-sight link, b a modulating retroreflector link, and c a reflective link, all of which can provide the required data rate. We analyze the link performance based on these models. From the analysis, it is clear that as the water absorption increases, the communication performance decreases dramatically for the three link types. However, by using the scattered light it was possible to mitigate this decrease in some cases. It is concluded from the analysis that a high-data-rate underwater optical wireless network is a feasible solution for emerging applications such as UUV-to-UUV links and networks of sensors, and extended ranges in these applications could be achieved by applying a multi-hop concept.
© 2010 Society of Photo-Optical Instrumentation Engineers. DOI: 10.1117/1.3280288

Subject terms: optical communication; underwater; subsea; FSO; ocean. Paper 090580PR received Jul. 30, 2009; revised manuscript received Nov. 8, 2009; accepted for publication Nov. 11, 2009; published online Jan. 15, 2010. This paper is a revision of a paper presented at the SPIE conference on Free-Space Laser Communications IX, August 2009, San Diego, California. The paper presented there appears unrefereed in SPIE Proceedings Vol. 7464.



The present technology of acoustic underwater communication is a legacy technology that provides low-data-rate transmissions for medium-range communication. Data rates of acoustic communication are restricted to around tens of thousands of kilobits per second for ranges of a kilometer, and less than a thousand kilobits per second for ranges up to 100 km, due to severe, frequency-dependent attenuation and surface-induced pulse spread.1–4 In addition, the speed of acoustic waves in the ocean is approximately 1500 m / s, so that long-range communication involves high latency, which poses a problem for real-time response, synchronization, and multiple-access protocols. As a result, the network topology is simple and goodput is low. In addition, acoustic waves could distress marine mammals such as dolphins and whales. As a result, acoustic technology cannot satisfy emerging applications that require around the clock, high-data-rate communication networks in real time. Examples of such applications are networks of sensors for the investigation of climate change; monitoring biological, biogeochemical, evolutionary, and ecological processes in sea,
0091-3286/2010/$25.00 © 2010 SPIE

ocean, and lake environments; and unmanned underwater vehicles UUVs used to control and maintain oil production facilities and harbors Fig. 1 . An alternative means of underwater communication is based on optics, wherein

Fig. 1 The line-of-sight communication scenario.

Optical Engineering


January 2010/Vol. 49 1

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January 2010/Vol. the absorption coefficient increases more moderately than does the turbidity. 7 and 8 examine the fundamental physics and natural variability of underwater optical attenuation and discuss the design issues of underwater optical communications associated with oceanic physics and parameter variability. The paper by Jaruwatanadilok13 presents the modeling of an underwater wireless optical communication channel using the vector radiative transfer theory. Multiscattering causes the optical pulse to widen in the spatial. the modulating retroreflector. The attenuation and broadening are wavelength dependent and result from absorption and multiscattering of light by water molecules and by marine hydrosols mineral and organic matter . scattering. However. In Ref. Arnon and Kedar11 propose a novel non-line-of-sight network concept in which the optical link is implemented by means of back reflection of the propagating optical signal at the ocean-air interface. but the modulated retroreflector link is the most affected. 2 3 Communication Link Models We now consider three types of communication links: the line of sight. The vector radiative transfer equation captures the multiple scattering in natural water.z = exp − c z . which is characterized by high multiscattering and absorption. they predict longer-range underwater free-space optical performance with bandwidths greater than 5 GHz for a range of 64 m in clear ocean water. leveraging the emerging technologies of highly sensitive photon-counting detectors and semiconductor LED and laser light sources in the solar blind UV.72. all of which can provide the required data rate. In Ref. 10 propose to use retroreflecting free-space optical links in water. and also includes the polarization of light.Arnon: Underwater optical wireless communication network high data rates are possible. Finally. Although high data rates are threatened by extremely high absorption and scattering. The extinction coefficient c of the aquatic medium is governed by the absorption and scattering coefficients . Using Monte Carlo simulations and measurement results. the distance between the transmitter and the receiver must be short.19 Fig. 2 Absorption.138. and Laux6 measure both the spatial and temporal effects of scattering on a laser link in turbid underwater environments. temporal. respectively. from less than 0. coastal ocean water.1. coastal ocean water. We conclude from the analysis that a high-data-rate underwater optical wireless network is a feasible solution for emerging applications such as UUV-toUUV links and networks of sensors. 1 2 Figure 2 depicts the absorption.15 0. In addition. Cochenour. The Properties of the Underwater Optical Wireless Communication Channel Light pulses propagating in aquatic medium suffer from attenuation and broadening in the spatial. clean ocean water. I present models of three kinds of optical wireless communication: a a line-of-sight link. and polarization domains. Mullen. and c a reflective link. temporal. angular.10. However. there is evidence that broadband links can be achieved over moderate ranges. However. Section 3 presents the Optical Engineering Extinction coefficient (m-1) Clean Ocean Coastal Ocean Turbid Harbor 0. 12 the possibility of a wireless sensor network concept dubbed “optical plankton” is described and evaluated. The remainder of the paper is organized as follows. and extinction coefficients for four types of water—pure sea water. and extinction coefficients for four types of water—pure sea water. 6 summarizes our results. communication link models. which allow much of the weight and power payload of the system to be located at one end. b a modulating retroreflector link. Hanson and Radic5 demonstrated 1-Gbit/ s transmissions in a laboratory experiment with a simulated aquatic medium with scattering characteristics similar to oceanic waters. the communication performance decreases dramatically for all three link types. 49 1 015001-2 Downloaded from SPIE Digital Library on 28 Jan 2010 to 132. and turbid harbor water—at 520-nm wavelength. 9 the authors examine the potential of subsea free-space optics for sensor network applications. and polarization domains. Section 2 describes the properties of the underwater optical wireless communication channel. The authors of Refs.14 It is clear that an increase in the turbidity dramatically increases the extinction coefficient. The authors of Ref. clean ocean water.6. and we have9 and c = + . and turbid harbor water—at 520-nm wavelength. which could help to overcome obstructions. and the reflective. the absorption coefficient increases more moderately than does the water turbidity. dropping to 1 GHz for a range of 8 m in turbid harbor water. I also present performance analyses based on these models. we perform a bit error rate BER calculation. Section 4 contains a discussion and a numerical example. due to the extremely challenging underwater environment. Sec. scattering.org/terms .30 2.1 m−1 for pure water up to more than 2 m−1 for turbid harbor water. The propagation loss factor as a function of wavelength and distance z is given by Lpr . Extended ranges in these applications could be achieved by applying a multihop concept. From the analyses it is clear that as the water absorption increases due to changes in water turbidity. angular. Terms of Use: http://spiedl.

. is the angle between the perpendicular to the receiver plane and the transmitter-receiver trajectory. Terms of Use: http://spiedl. If we model the ocean-air surface as smooth. When the transmitter is at depth h. and lifting capacity than the diver.2 Modulating Retroreflector Communication Link The modulating retroreflector link10 is used when one party for example. in the upward direction Fig. the illuminated annular surface with equal power density at depth x is given by Aann = 2 h+x h+x 2 2 1 − cos cos max − 1 + cos max min where PT is the average transmitter optical power. the transmitter directs the light beam in the direction of the receiver.1 Line-of-Sight Communication Link The most common link between two points in optical wireless communication systems is a line-of-sight LOS link as illustrated in Fig. d tan 0 2 4 3. a submarine has more resources another one for example. respectively. 3 . In this scenario. defined by inner and outer angles min and max.11 To address this problem a reflective communication link could be used. R is the optical efficiency of the receiver. 3 b . and 0 is the laser beam divergence angle.138. in the submarine . is the angle between the perpendicular to the receiver plane and the transmitter-receiver trajectory. The latter is derived from the former using Snell’s law. misalignment. or random orientation of the transceivers. 11 as d cos ARec cos 2 d2 1 − cos PR los = PT T RLpr .3 Reflective Communication Link In some communication scenarios the line of sight is not available due to obstructions. as in Fig. 0 3 3. 3 can be approximated as 0 Optical Engineering =2 min − cos . d is the perpendicular distance between the transmitter and the receiver plane. total internal reflection TIR can be achieved above a critical incidence angle. 2d cos ARetro cos 2 d2 1 − cos 0 ARec cos d tan 0retro 2 5 where Retro is the optical efficiency of the retroreflector. ARetro is the retroreflector’s aperture area. 3 a .org/terms . The received power in this scenario is given by PR Retro = PT T Rec RetroLpr . the laser transmitter emits a cone of light. and a small modulating optical retroreflector sits at the remote end. The light reaching the ocean-air surface illuminates an annular area and is partially bounced back in accordance with the reflectivity. and losses and is given by Ref. 3. Then we can define the auxiliary function and calculate the received power as January 2010/Vol. The retroreflector inactively reflects this beam back to the interrogator while modulating the information on it. Therefore it would be wise to put most of the complexity and power requirement of the communication system into the submarine. the interrogator illuminates the retroreflecting end of the link with a continuouswave beam. Fig. the submarine has more energy. telescope gain.1. Since the refractive index of air is lower than that of water.Arnon: Underwater optical wireless communication network PR los = PT T RLpr . When the transmitter beam divergence angle is very narrow / 20 . T is the optical efficiency of the transmitter. a diver .72. which would have uniform power density in free space. ARec is the receiver aperture area. then = i. c The reflection communication scenario. 3 a The line-of-sight communication scenario. Here i and t are the angles of incidence and of transmission. 3 c . and we can derive the link budget by using the variables defined in Eq. d cos ARec cos . 6 Equation 6 describes an annular area taken from a sphere of radius h + x. In this case. Eq. In operation. . and 0retro is the retroreflector’s beam divergence angle. b The modulating retroreflector communication scenario. payload. The optical signal reaching the receiver is obtained by multiplying the transmitter power. In this case. 49 1 015001-3 Downloaded from SPIE Digital Library on 28 Jan 2010 to 132. the interrogator sits at one end in our case. In a modulating retroreflector link.

Arnon: Underwater optical wireless communication network 2 2 f R ref PT cos = Aann T RLpr . when it is required to simultaneously broadcast for example from a submarine to several platforms UUVs or divers. 9 Here r1 = rd + rbg + rs and r0 = rd + rbg. where rd and rbg represent the sources of additive noise due to dark counts and background illumination. From this figure it is easy to see that in the absorption case the number of received photons reduces from 105 to 1 for increases in distance separation from 1 to 65 m. For instance. yielding the approximate received power as PR ref ARec f R ref . and erfc = 2 exp − 2 the receiver results in a considerably higher photon count for a given sensor node separation than a reflective or retroreflector link. Terms of Use: http://spiedl. 4 Graph showing number of received photons as a function of transmitter-receiver separation for clean ocean water with extinction coefficient equal to 0. In this section we simulate the performance of the three links. It is clear that line of sight using narrow beam divergence provides the maximum range. However. 6 we compare the numbers of photons received for a link operated in turbid harbor water for two cases: a when only absorption is considered and b when absorption and scattering are considered. respectively. then according to the central limit theorem. cos 7 c max . while in the reflective underwater network solution a number of nodes would be expected to receive the signal. the Poisson distribution can be approximated by a Gaussian distribution and the BER is given by11 BER = 1 erfc 2 r 1T − r 0T 2 r 1T 1/2 + r 2T 1/2 . min c. When one party has more resources than the other one in the link. if a single point-to-point link were to fail.15 m−1. In this technique. 10 4 Discussion and Numerical Example The three types of link models could be used to design sophisticated networks. 4 that a single LOS underwater link using a pulsemodulated laser transmitter and a SiPM detector array in Optical Engineering Fig.138. if obstructions between the two platforms block the line of sight. the best option is to use LOS with a wide beam divergence. h+x 1 cos 2 tan tan − t+ t + sin sin − + t t .15 These photodetector devices are fabricated in the form of arrays of photodiodes that are operated in Geiger mode to create a photon-counting device. At the plane of the receiving sensor.72. using practical values for clean ocean water with an extinction coefficient of 0. Equation 7 can be simplified on the assumption that the receiver aperture is small relative to h + x. It is evident from Fig. for a node separation of 30 m. 015001-4 January 2010/Vol. while a BER of 10−4 could be achieved in a LOS link and a retroreflector link when the node separation is 60 m and 50 m. 2 photons would be received from a retroreflector link. The values of the simulation parameters are given in Table 1. and only 10 would be received in a reflective link where the transmitter depth is 20 m and the receiving nodes are also at a depth of 20 m. for example . however. 8. with sufficient node redundancy there would still be additional nodes that could relay the signal further. In Fig. a reflective communication link is preferred. In Fig. However. Even in the severe case where several nodes fail.org/terms . in this case the precise locations of the two platforms are required. From this result it is easy to understand that acceptable BER performance could be achieved for short ranges on the order of tens of meters for all three models.000 photons would be received from a signal in a LOS link. . 49 1 Downloaded from SPIE Digital Library on 28 Jan 2010 to 132. 8 3. the modulated retroreflector is the best option.15 m−1. T RLpr h+x . the receiver is based on the emerging technology of silicon photomultipliers SiPMs .4 Bit Error Rate Calculation The simplest and most widespread modulation technique in optical wireless communication is intensity-modulation.1. direct-detection on-off keying OOK . On the other hand. the transmitted signal would be lost. 5 we can see that BER values of 10−4 are obtained for a reflective link when the node separation is 40 m. If we assume that a large number of photons are received. respectively. while in the case of ab- d . node coverage is provided within an annular area bounded by radii h + x tan min and h + x tan max.

49 1 Downloaded from SPIE Digital Library on 28 Jan 2010 to 132. 68 min. smart buffering and prioritization could help to mitigate short-term data rate reduction.01 10 Fig.1.138. A hybrid communication system can provide high-data-rate transmission by using the optical transceiver.5 0. clear ocean m−1 Refractive index Critical angle deg Transmission wavelength nm Optical efficiency of retroreflector Optical efficiency of transmitter Optical efficiency of receiver Average transmitter power W Pulse duration ns Data rate Mbit/s Receiver aperture area m2 Retroreflector aperture area m2 Retroreflector beam divergence deg Laser beam divergence angle Transmitter inclination angles deg Dark counting rate MHz Background counting rate MHz Counting efficiency % Transmitter depth h m Receiver depth x m 0 retro Typical value 0.9 10 1 0.9 0. Terms of Use: http://spiedl. Such networks could serve subsea wireless mobile users. 5 Graph showing BER as a function of transmitter-receiver separation for clean ocean water with extinction coefficient equal to 0. up to a hundred meters. 5 Summary and Conclusions The results presented indicate that networks based on underwater optical wireless links are feasible at high data rates for medium distances.33643 48. 6 Graph showing number of received photons for line-of-sight scenario as a function of transmitter-receiver separation for two cases: absorption and extinction. rigorous modeling of the reflective nature of the ocean-air surface.01 0. When the water turbidity is high or the distance between the terminals is large. Additional improvements to the availability of the network could be achieved by a hybrid communication system that would include an optical Optical Engineering Fig. the system can switch to a low data rate using the acoustic transceiver. as well as solar radiance penetration.9 0. Extensive studies should be made of the nature of multiple scattering in different oceanic channels and the limitation of the sorption and scattering the number of received photons reduces from 105 to 1 for increases in distance separation from 1 to 8 m This result indicates that receiving more scattered light and performing the required signal processing in the time domain could dramatically improve the performance of an optical wireless system in turbid water.Arnon: Underwater optical wireless communication network Table 1 Parameters used in numerical calculations.15 m−1.44 532 0.72. the complexity and cost of the system are increased. Many aspects of the proposed system remain to be investigated. 015001-5 January 2010/Vol. Parameter Extinction coefficient. 1 1 16 20 20 transceiver and an acoustical transceiver.org/terms . for example. However. including ocean surface roughness. thereby increasing the average data rate and availability. by placing multiple relay nodes between the chief network nodes. We assume retro is much greater than the diffraction-limited divergence angle. messages could traverse very long distances despite severe medium-induced limitations on the transmission ranges of individual links. In this kind of system.1514 1. In addition. deg max 68 0.

14. S. Israel. and D.” in Proc. Vasilescu. Geophys. CRC Press. Smart. “Characterization of the beam-spread function for underwater wireless optical communications links. 85–88. and cellular and mobile wireless communication. Laux.Arnon: Underwater optical wireless communication network modulating retroreflector range due to light backscattered into the receiver before reaching the retroreflector. and with detection of falls in the case of epilepsy sufferers and elderly people. However. 9. 328–337 2009 . During part of the summer of 2007. N. In addition to research. Express 15 22 . 1–7 2008 . R. FL 1995 . 255– 256 2005 . F. pp. Kondratyev. pp. 277—283 2008 . “Underwater wireless optical communication channel modeling and performance evaluation using vector radiative transfer theory. He was an associate editor for the Optical Society of America’s Journal of Optical Networks for a special issue on optical wireless communication that appeared in 2006. 3. “Non-line-of-sight underwater optical wireless communication network. and G. 013541 2007 . During 1998–1999 Professor Arnon was a postdoctoral associate Fulbright Fellow at LIDS. Akyildiz. 10. Cochenour. 15.” J. M. he established the Satellite and Wireless Communication Laboratory.” in Proc. “High bandwidth underwater optical communication. Ye. Nederland. 046001 2009 . Appl. C. 16. Arnon and D. J. W. Opt. M. 228–235 2006 . Bukata. Additional open issues to be addressed at higher layers of the network design include multiple access. Opt. and A. V. 13. Bankman.. 2. Arnon. Kedar. Mullen. “Backscatter suppression for underwater modulating retroreflector links using polarization discrimination. Jerome. I. Opt. References 1. Heidemann. Some seminal theory necessary to describe spatial spreading of an optical beam in the presence of scattering agents under water was presented in Ref. 1620–1627 2008 .” IEEE J. D. Cochenour.” in Proc. which has been under his directorship since then. and N. a longstanding project has dealt with developing a system to detect human survival after earthquakes. on a novel concept of a dual communication and illumination system. Rus. Kedar and S. 47 2 . Sel. Li. Hanson and S. Cochenour.1. Massachusetts Institute of Technology MIT . H. 513–521 2008 .” Opt. H. the fundamental concept has been shown to be feasible and practical. Remote Sensing 1. “Research challenges and applications for underwater sensor networking. 12. S.” J. He was a visiting professor during the summer of 2008 at TU Delft. and satellite communication. Eng. Eraerds. IEEE Military Communications Conf. IEEE Military Communications Conf. A. 6. Rabinovich. Muth. Eng. 48 2 . A.138. IEEE Military Communications Conf. and T. USA. H.” in Proc. 49 1 Downloaded from SPIE Digital Library on 28 Jan 2010 to 132. R. optical.” Rev. “Optical plankton: an optical oceanic probing scheme. Pompili. “Underwater acoustic sensor networks: research challenges. Boca Raton.” Ad Hoc Networks 3 3 . and wireless communication. RG1001 2006 . Radic. 11. Professor Arnon and his students work on many challenging engineering projects with especial emphasis on the humanitarian dimension. 1140–1146 2005 . 8. Nederland. Pozdnyakov. and A. 48 4 . Syed. remote sensing. Mahon. B. “Underwater optical communications systems part 2: basic design considerations. 5.” Appl. Professor Arnon continuously takes part in many national and international projects in the areas of satellite communication. Giles and I. Laux.” Appl. in 2000. Optical Properties and Remote Sensing of Inland and Coastal Waters.. M. Jaruwatanadilok. Y. 26 9 . pp. L. 7.” in Proc. IEEE 2007 . J. Eindhoven. and is now on the editorial board for the IEEE Journal on Selected Areas in Communications for a special issue on optical wireless communication. J. Areas Commun. F. Kedar and S. Gisin. Second Int. There. wireless. Wills. and J. W. and code division multiple access CDMA or clustering. with an infant respiration monitoring system to prevent cardiac arrest and apnea. For instance. K.. I. E. 44 1 . T. D. J. 530–539 2009 . Optical Engineering 015001-6 January 2010/Vol. Chang. and D. J.72. 16. Mullen. and Y. B. P. Detweiller. 14539—14549 2007 . His research has produced more than fifty journal papers in the area of satellite. L. A 26 3 . 1140–1146 2005 . Future work on these subjects should refine the analysis and yield more accurate numerical results. 33 4 .” Opt. Shlomi Arnon is a faculty member in the Department of Electrical and Computer Engineering at Ben-Gurion University. “Optical oceanography. “Spatial and temporal dispersion in high bandwidth underwater laser communication links. 4. Ocean. D. recent advances and future directions using global remote sensing and in situ observations. Soc. IEEE Wireless Communications and Networking Conf.” IEEE J. “SiPM for fast photon-counting and multiphoton detection. Rochas. Dickey. J. pp. Workshop on Underwater Networks. Cambridge. Terms of Use: http://spiedl. Legre. “Subsea ultraviolet solar-blind broadband free-space optics communication. He consults regularly with start-up and well-established companies in optical.org/terms . Professor Arnon is a frequent invited speaker and program committee member at major IEEE and SPIE conferences in the USA and Europe. Melodia.. L. pp. Zbinden. “AquaNodes: an underwater sensor network. Mullen. W. Lewis. Arnon. he worked at TU/e and Philips Lab. P. B. “Underwater optical communication systems part 1: variability of water optical parameters. such as wavelength division multiplexing WDM at blue-green wavelengths. Am.

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