Researchers at MIT have developed a way for submerged submarines to converse with planes. Currently, planes cannot pick up sonar signals from underwater as they rarely break through rather they reflect off from the water’s surface.
The researchers have successfully found radar that has extremely high frequency which can detect tiny waves in water that are created by an ordinary underwater speaker. This can be highly useful for submarines and lost flight recorders to communicate with planes.
Submarines can communicate by sonar waves that travels quite well under water but have a hard time to break through the surface. Whereas, planes communicate with the help of radio signals that cannot travel well under water. Currently, submarines have to resurface to send messages but this can be highly risky as it can reveal their location. More often than not, submarines use buoys to receive sonar signals and then translate them into radio signals.
Fadel Adib, one of the researcher from the MIT Media Lab said that it’s difficult to cross the water and air boundary with wireless signals. The system designed at MIT utilizes an underwater speaker to directly aim sonar signals at the surface of water which then creates tiny waves that are only few micrometers in height. These tiny waves can be easily detected by the high frequency radar above the water and then decoded back into messages.
This idea was initially tested by the researchers in a swimming pool and they were successful in receiving message from underwater to the surface. However, this system can take longer time to send larger amount of data as it does not work if the waves are taller than 16cm (6in) inside the water. Even though the system can handle calm days and certain disturbance in water, it cannot work on all days and every weather.
This system also face a restrain that it works one way. It doesn’t allow the plane to send back messages to the submarine. Researchers are hoping to develop algorithms that can help in eliminating the noise of wavy ocean so that it can isolate the tiny waves from the sonar messages. Probably in the future it can help drones or planes to detect location of “black box” submerged flight recorder.