High-Speed, Cross-Domain Data Transfer

Navy STTR 24.B - Topic N24B-T026
NAVAIR - Naval Air Systems Command
Pre-release 4/17/24   Opened to accept proposals 5/15/24   Closes 6/12/24 12:00pm ET

N24B-T026 TITLE: High-Speed, Cross-Domain Data Transfer

OUSD (R&E) CRITICAL TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): FutureG;Integrated Network Systems-of-Systems; Trusted AI and Autonomy

OBJECTIVE: Identify, develop, and demonstrate technologies that enable high-speed, wireless data transfer across the air-sea interface via unmanned platform teaming.

DESCRIPTION: The problem: Advanced sensor payloads are being developed for unmanned underwater vehicles to detect and identify subsea threats. The challenge is to wirelessly transfer the sensor data from these payloads, in a timely manner, across the air-sea interface for analysis.

The current state-of-the-art: Generally, modern underwater communication links use acoustic methods whose biggest shortcoming is low-data bandwidth (< 1 Mbps) [Refs 1, 2]. Currently, high-speed wireless data transfer from underwater platforms requires the platform to surface and establish a radio link or be physically recovered by a crewed platform, interrupting the mission, and revealing the platform’s location. Additionally, the time it takes to acquire and process the data may render the information obsolete, reducing its effectiveness for decision making.

Techniques to assist the passage of data through the sea surface, like buoys, are typically passively drifting or moored to a single location, reducing their effectiveness in supporting dynamic missions that cover large areas. With the advancement of autonomous systems, teaming between air, surface, and subsea unmanned platforms combined with new communication techniques, such as those that leverage multiple parts of the frequency spectrum [Refs 3–5] (i.e., acoustic, or optical frequencies underwater, and RF frequencies above water), have the potential to enable cross-domain command and control, and high-speed data transfer. High-speed, underwater, optical communication links have been demonstrated in the lab [Refs 6, 7], but their applicability to a relevant environment is not proven. This STTR topic aims to develop and demonstrate a methodology that leverages multi-spectrum technology (i.e., acoustic, radio, and optical)—paired with unmanned teaming—to enable high-speed communications across the air-sea interface in a wide range of water types. Data rates across the air-sea interface of greater or equal to 10 Mb/s are required, and the size, weight, and power (SWaP) of the components should be compatible with unmanned platforms.

PHASE I: Develop a methodology that incorporates unmanned platform teaming (i.e., air, surface, and underwater) with diverse communication technologies (i.e., acoustic, radio, and optical) to achieve high-data rates across the air-sea boundary. The methodology should include initial modeling of the communication links, and of relevant unmanned platform teaming behaviors to serve as a proof-of-concept for the proposed solution. Metrics such as communication range, throughput, persistence, and reliability should be investigated. Specific sensor technology and unmanned platforms should be identified, and the intended operating environment conditions specified. References to relevant work are encouraged and awardees may include an initial demonstration of communication technologies—and/or unmanned teaming—in simulated or relevant environments to further reinforce the legitimacy of the proposed solution. The Phase I effort will include prototype plans to be developed under Phase II.

PHASE II: Demonstrate the methodology developed in Phase I in a relevant environment. Sensors identified in Phase I should be produced or procured, and integrated into the unmanned platforms, also identified in Phase I. The methodology should be tested in a simulated environment before being deployed in a relevant environment. Unmanned teaming behavior should be developed to support the methodology identified in Phase I. Data from lab and field testing should be used to validate the models within the proposed solution.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Develop commercialization of the device, manufacturing methods, and finalize device form factor and capabilities. Evaluate market potential for military and civilian applications and assess required infrastructure for continued technology readiness level (TRL) and manufacturing readiness level (MRL) development.

Persistent situational awareness of the underwater domain is applicable for several private sector applications. Oil and gas can leverage this technology to survey challenging drill sites and inspect underwater infrastructure. Harbor operations, such as hull inspection, security, and infrastructure inspections would benefit as well. Unmanned teaming has the potential to reduce the need for, and risk to, crewed operations. Pairing this with advanced laser sensors will enable higher quality inspections for better decision making.


  1. "Achieving 1-Mbps/300-m underwater transmission and wireless remotely operated vehicle (ROV) using underwater acoustic communication – Progress towards the extreme coverage extension that 6G-IOWN is aiming for - " NTT Corporation, 1 November 2022. https://group.ntt/en/newsrelease/2022/11/01/221101a.html
  2. Zia, M. Y. I.; Poncela, J. and Otero, P. "State-of-the-art underwater acoustic communication modems: Classifications, analyses and design challenges. Wireless Personal Communications, Volume 116, 2021, pp. 1325-1360. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11277-020-07431-x
  3. Farr, N.; Bowen, A.; Ware, J.; Pontbriand, C. and Tivey, M. "An integrated, underwater optical/acoustic communications system." OCEANS'10 IEEE SYDNEY, Sydney, NSW, Australia, 2010, pp. 1-6. https://doi.org/10.1109/OCEANSSYD.2010.5603510
  4. Tonolini, F. and Adib, F. "Networking across boundaries: Enabling wireless communication through the water-air interface." MIT, 2018. https://www.mit.edu/~fadel/papers/TARF-paper.pdf
  5. Grund, M. and Ball, K. "A mobile communications gateway for auv telemetry." OCEANS ’13 MTS-IEEE - San Diego, 23-26 September 2013, pp. 1-5. https://doi.org/10.23919/OCEANS.2013.6741208 https://ieeexplore.ieee.org/document/6741208
  6. Wang, J.; Lu, C.; Li, S. and Xu, Z. "100 m/500 Mbps underwater optical wireless communication using an NRZ-OOK modulated 520 nm laser diode." Optics Express, 27(9), 12019, pp. 2171-12181. https://doi.org/10.1364/OE.27.012171
  7. Wu, T. C.; Chi, Y. C.; Wang, H. Y.; Tsai, C. T. and Lin, G. R. "Blue laser diode enables underwater communication at 12.4 Gbps." Scientific reports, 7(1), 2017, pp. 40480. https://doi.org/10.1038/srep40480

KEYWORDS: communications; autonomy; unmanned; optics; sensors; maritime


The Navy Topic above is an "unofficial" copy from the Navy Topics in the DoD 24.B STTR BAA. Please see the official DoD Topic website at www.defensesbirsttr.mil/SBIR-STTR/Opportunities/#announcements for any updates.

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