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­nderwater Radio, Anyone?

The system would allow scuba divers to communicate with each other or with nearby submarines.

The Mechanically Based Antenna program could enable radio communication through seawater and the ground, and directly between warfighters hundreds of kilometers apart.

Credit: U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency

The U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) wants to build wireless radio transmitters in environments that have previously thwarted communication.

DARPA's Troy Olsson recently announced the A Mechanically Based Antenna (AMEBA) program to harness ultra-low-frequency (ULF) electromagnetic waves that can penetrate some distance into media such as water, soil, rock, metal, and building materials.

A band of very-low-frequency (VLF) signals in close proximity opens additional communications potential because at these wavelengths, the atmospheric passage between the Earth's surface and the ionosphere acts like a radio waveguide in which the signals can propagate halfway around the planet.

"If we are successful, scuba divers would be able to use a ULF channel for low bit-rate communications, like text messages, to communicate with each other or with nearby submarines, ships, relay buoys, [unmanned aerial vehicles], and ground-based assets," Olsson says.

AMEBA's goal is to create new VLF and ULF transmitters that are small, light, and power-efficient enough to be carried by individual soldiers in any setting. The program aims to develop antennas that generate signals by mechanically moving materials containing strong electric or magnetic fields.

"We should be able to give our warfighters extremely valuable mission-expanding channels of communications that no one has had before," Olsson says.

From U.S. Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency
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