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Title: Development of an acoustic communication link for micro underwater vehicles
Author: Goodfellow, Geraint Mark
ISNI:       0000 0004 5353 6933
Awarding Body: University of Newcastle Upon Tyne
Current Institution: University of Newcastle upon Tyne
Date of Award: 2014
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In recent years there has been an increasing trend towards the use of Micro Remotely Operated Vehicles (μROVs), such as the Videoray and Seabotix LBV products, for a range of subsea applications, including environmental monitoring, harbour security, military surveillance and offshore inspection. A major operational limitation is the umbilical cable, which is traditionally used to supply power and communications to the vehicle. This tether has often been found to significantly restrict the agility of the vehicle or in extreme cases, result in entanglement with subsea structures. This thesis addresses the challenges associated with developing a reliable full-duplex wireless communications link aimed at tetherless operation of a μROV. Previous research has demonstrated the ability to support highly compressed video transmissions over several kilometres through shallow water channels with large range-depth ratios. However, the physical constraints of these platforms paired with the system cost requirements pose significant additional challenges. Firstly, the physical size/weight of transducers for the LF (8-16kHz) and MF (16-32kHz) bands would significantly affect the dynamics of the vehicle measuring less than 0.5m long. Therefore, this thesis explores the challenges associated with moving the operating frequency up to around 50kHz centre, along with the opportunities for increased data rate and tracking due to higher bandwidth. The typical operating radius of μROVs is less than 200m, in water < 100m deep, which gives rise to multipath channels characterised by long timespread and relatively sparse arrivals. Hence, the system must be optimised for performance in these conditions. The hardware costs of large multi-element receiver arrays are prohibitive when compared to the cost of the μROV platform. Additionally, the physical size of such arrays complicates deployment from small surface vessels. Although some recent developments in iterative equalisation and decoding structures have enhanced the performance of single element receivers, they are not found to be adequate in such channels. This work explores the optimum cost/performance trade-off in a combination of a micro beamforming array using a Bit Interleaved Coded Modulation with Iterative Decoding (BICM-ID) receiver structure. The highly dynamic nature of μROVs, with rapid acceleration/deceleration and complex thruster/wake effects, are also a significant challenge to reliable continuous communications. The thesis also explores how these effects can best be mitigated via advanced Doppler correction techniques, and adaptive coding and modulation via a simultaneous frequency multiplexed down link. In order to fully explore continuous adaptation of the transmitted signals, a real-time full-duplex communication system was constructed in hardware, utilising low cost components and a highly optimised PC based receiver structure. Rigorous testing, both in laboratory conditions and through extensive field trials, have enabled the author to explore the performance of the communication link on a vehicle carrying out typical operations and presenting a wide range of channel, noise, Doppler and transmission latency conditions. This has led to a comprehensive set of design recommendations for a reliable and cost effective link capable of continuous throughputs of >30 kbits/s.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available