MIT invents a way to allow submerged submarines to speak to airplanes

In a world in which we don’t think twice about having Wi-Fi on a plane several miles in the air, it’s easy to forget that there are still parts of the planet it’s difficult to communicate with. One of those is thousands of feet underwater on submerged submarines, which have long had issues communicating with the surface.

However, that could be about to change thanks to researchers from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. MIT engineers created a new underwater-to-air communication system called TARF (Translational Acoustic-RF communication) that is able to seamlessly convert sonar into radar.

“For a long time, the water surface has remained an obstacle for wireless communication,” Fadel Adib, principal investigator for MIT’s Media Lab, told Digital Trends. “Underwater communication relies on sound; in-air communications uses radio signals, like cellular or Wi-Fi — neither of which can cross the water surface. This is why it’s so difficult to find airplanes that disappear underwater, and why submarines can’t directly communicate with satellites.”

The TARF technology turns the water surface from an obstacle into a communication interface by combining sound and radio in an innovative way. It uses an underwater speaker to send data as sound. Sound travels as pressure waves, which vibrate the surface when they hit it from underwater. These vibrations can then be picked up by a sensitive radar above the surface, before being decoded to recover the sound data.

“The research paves [the] way for many applications,” Adib continued. “It would allow submarines to communicate with airplanes without surfacing. It can be used for ocean scientific exploration, where underwater sensors are deployed to monitor marine life and send their data to the surface. In the future, it can also be used to find airplanes that go missing underwater.”

At present, the technology is still in its relative infancy. The team has tested it at depths of 11.5 feet in swimming pools to demonstrate that it can communicate successfully. They have also tested it with circulation currents to mimic some of the environmental conditions it might face in the ocean. Next, the researchers plan to test TARF at greater depths and higher altitudes, along with making the technology more robust to large ocean waves.

Emerging Tech

Geoengineering is risky and unproven, but soon it might be necessary

Geoengineering is a field dedicated to purposely changing the world's climate using technology. Call it 'playing god' if you must; here's why its proponents believe it absolutely must happen.
Smart Home

These are the 13 best games to play on your new Google Home

Google Home is a handy device, but did you know you can play games with it? There are a ton to play, and we tested them all. Here are some of favorites that you can play on your Google Home device.
Emerging Tech

Astronomers surprised to find deep lakes of methane on Titan

In the two years since the Cassini probe burned up in Saturn's rings, data from its recordings is still being analyzed. The latest research has shown that Saturn's largest moon, Titan, hosts deep liquid lakes of methane on its surface.
Emerging Tech

U.S., U.K. embrace autonomous robot spy subs that can stay at sea for months

Unmanned, autonomous robot spy submarines that are able to stay at sea for months at a time may be coming to both the United States and its ally across the pond, the U.K. Here's what we know so far.
Emerging Tech

Awesome Tech You Can’t Buy Yet: Robots that eat landmines and clean your floors

Check out our roundup of the best new crowdfunding projects and product announcements that hit the web this week. You may not be able to buy this stuff yet, but it's fun to gawk!
Emerging Tech

SpaceX experiences problem during test, Crew Dragon capsule may have exploded

SpaceX has experienced a problem during the testing of its Crew Dragon capsule. During the engine test firing at Cape Canaveral yesterday afternoon, an unspecified anomaly occurred which lead to plumes of smoke rising from the test site.
Emerging Tech

The grid of the future will be powered by … giant subterranean bagpipes?

In order to transition to a more renewable-focused energy system, we need to scale up our grid storage capacity --- and our existing methods aren't going to cut it. Could compressed air be the key?
Emerging Tech

Beresheet crash caused by manual command, but reflector device may have survived

Details are emerging about what may have gone wrong with spacecraft Beresheet's failed moon landing. A manual command was entered which led to a chain reaction. But NASA still hopes to salvage use of its Laser Retroreflector Array device.
Emerging Tech

The oldest type of molecule in the universe has been located at last

A milestone in the development of the early universe was the combination of helium and hydrogen atoms into a molecule called helium hydride. But strangely enough, this ancient molecule has never been detected in space before now.
Emerging Tech

Mercury’s wobble as it spins reveals that it has an inner solid core

Scientists have long wondered what the inside of Mercury looks like, and they now have strong evidence that the planet has a large and solid metallic core. The data for the new findings was collected by the now-defunct MESSENGER mission.
Emerging Tech

Gravitational forces at heart of Milky Way shaped this star cluster like a comet

Hubble has captured the stunning Messier 62 cluster. The cluster is warped, with a long tail which stretches out to form a shape like a comet. It is thought this distortion is due to Messier 62's proximity to the center of the galaxy.
Emerging Tech

Burgers are just the beginning: Embracing the future of lab-grown everything

You’ve almost certainly heard of the 'farm to fork' movement, but what about 'lab to table'? Welcome to the fast-evolving world of lab-grown meat. Is this the future of food as we know it?
Emerging Tech

Troubleshooting Earth

It’s no secret that humans are killing the planet. Some say it’s actually so bad that we’re hurtling toward a sixth major extinction event -- one which we ourselves are causing. But can technology help us undo the damage we’ve…
Emerging Tech

Inside the Ocean Cleanup’s ambitious plan to rid the ocean of plastic waste

In 2013, Boyan Slat crowdfunded $2.2 million to fund the Ocean Cleanup, a nonprofit organization that builds big, floating trash collectors and sets them out to sea, where they’re designed to autonomously gobble up garbage.