13.10.20

Researchers create underwater wifi

Aqua Fi
The system uses a combination of lasers and off-the-shelf components to create a bi-directional wireless connection for underwater devices. Photo Credit: 2020 KAUST / Xavier Pita)

Integrators are always looking to think outside of the box, and an underwater wi-fi system which uses lasers to transmit data across distances could provide a new way for integrators to dive into projects.

Researchers from the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) have developed a system called ‘Aqua-Fi’, relying on a combination of lasers and ‘off-the-shelf’ components to create a bi-directional wireless connection for devices beneath the waves. 

The IEE 802.11 compliant system uses a Raspberry Pi as an underwater modem, converting the wireless signal to an optical signal (laser) and beaming it to a receiver floating on a surface buoy. 

Conventional communication techniques then send the signal to an orbiting satellite, reversing the process to allow underwater devices to receive data. 

Researchers were even able to host Skype calls using the Aqua-Fi system as well as file transfers beneath the waves but work still remains to make the system commercially viable. The precision required of laser technologies means that mildly turbulent water could knock a laser beam off course, missing its intended receptor. 

To combat this, the research team aims to explore ‘photonic fence’-like options by using guide lasers to scan and connect receptors, as well as a MIMO-like system which uses a small array of receptors to maintain connections even if the laser emitter is knocked off course.