posted on Jul, 12 2004 @ 04:29 AM
One development currently in its infancy is the use of networked unmanned underwater vehicles11 for synoptic (fully three-dimensional) environmental
sensing. Such environmental information, obtained through local sampling or tomography, could be of significant operational usefulness in improving
sonar capabilities. In addition, the imagination is stimulated by the vision that many small, dispersed platforms could be connected with a few manned
platforms for networked warfighting. Such a vision is currently premature but might become practical over the time horizon of this study. The panel
believes that the environmental sensing applications of UUV networks should be pursued first. In this way, the Navy will develop the enabling
technologies for such networks, as well as operational experience in their deployment.
The two key enabling technologies for UUV networks are their power sources and reliable underwater communications. There has been much activity in the
area of air-independent long-duration power sources, but there does not seem to be any consensus regarding which of many possible avenues-batteries,
fuel cells, and air-independent combustion-should be pursued. This is an area in which considerable interest also exists in the commercial sector, and
new long-duration power sources may arise from activities such as the Partnership for Next-Generation Vehicles. Thus, a top-down research approach may
be effective in guiding R&D in this area into the most promising paths.
Currently, the leading candidate for underwater communication is acoustic communications. Data rates of 2 to 20 kilobits per second (kbps) are
currently achievable, although distances are limited to a few kilometers in shallow water. It is even possible to give UUVs Internet addresses and to
communicate with them using standard Transmission Control Protocol/Internet Protocol (TCP/IP) protocols. An improved understanding of ocean acoustic
coherence, discussed elsewhere, could also improve our ability to communicate underwater. Little work, however, has been done on the vulnerability of
acoustic communications networks to acoustic jamming or on covert underwater communication.