Subs and planes to com­mu­ni­cate

A new minia­ture radar will al­low sub­ma­rine radars to ex­change mes­sages with plane radar sys­tems.

Science Illustrated - - SCIENCE UPDATE -

For years, en­gi­neers have been frus­trated that sub­marines can­not com­mu­ni­cate with planes, but now, sci­en­tists from the MIT in the US have found a so­lu­tion. Sub­marines emit sonar via sound waves that travel eas­ily through wa­ter, whereas planes use ra­dio waves or radar, elec­tro­mag­netic waves, which func­tion in air. Hence, the sur­face of the wa­ter used to be an im­pen­e­tra­ble wall.

The MIT sci­en­tists have in­vented a method, which can “trans­late” the sonar’s sound waves into sig­nals that can be read by a radar. The idea is to use a radar with wave­lengths that are sub­stan­tially shorter than tra­di­tional ones, i.e. a mil­lime­tre radar which can regis­ter the small rip­ples on the wa­ter that oc­cur, when sound waves from a sonar hit it from be­neath. In this way, the sci­en­tists use the wa­ter sur­face as a trans­lat­ing link.

In the lab, the mes­sage “Hello from un­der wa­ter” was trans­mit­ted as dig­i­tal in­for­ma­tion from an un­der­wa­ter speaker to a mil­lime­tre radar. The sci­en­tists also tested the sys­tem in a basin, in which they could de­code the sig­nals in spite of both acous­tic dis­rup­tion un­der the wa­ter and up to 8-cm-high waves on the sur­face. The sci­en­tists now aim to im­prove the method, which opens wide per­spec­tives. Bi­ol­o­gists can use drones to col­lect data about tem­per­a­ture and cur­rents from un­der­wa­ter sen­sors, and it will also be eas­ier to find planes that have wrecked in the ocean.

In the lab, sci­en­tists sent a dig­i­tal mes­sage from an un­der­wa­ter loud-speaker to a radar in the air.

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