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Intelligent Medium Access Control for Underwater Acoustic Communication Networks

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  • Full or part time
    Dr P D Mitchell
  • Application Deadline
    No more applications being accepted
  • Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)
    Funded PhD Project (European/UK Students Only)

Project Description

Knowledge our oceans and seas is important to our understanding of the Earth and is of interest to many groups of people including geologists, physicists, chemists, biologists, ecologists, meteorologists and engineers. Seventy percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water and we have explored less than 5% of the oceans. The oceans contain 20% of the world’s proteins, 97% of its water and 30% of its fossil reserves, and are therefore under great pressure for wider exploration and exploitation. At the same time, the oceans contain pristine nature and biodiversity for future generations, containing 99% of world’s life, 50% of known species. Until now ocean exploitation has been hampered by the remote and harsh environment for both people and equipment. In this context, communication technologies will play a key role in providing remote, unobtrusive ocean monitoring, and a balance between sustainable exploitation and conservation. Improvement in wireless communications capability would transform our ability to explore the oceans, by enabling real time continuous data collection and control of underwater vehicles from remote sites. Such technology would allow us to gather a wealth of data to better understand the Earth’s natural processes, to monitor marine life and protect biodiversity. It will help us predict natural disasters originating in the oceans and will undoubtedly lead to the discovery of new ecosystems, sources of energy, food and medicine.

A breakthrough in multiple access capability is required to fully exploit the exploration, sensing and monitoring capability that networks of mobile nodes can provide. It is well known that the Medium Access Control (MAC) layer plays a crucial role in providing efficient communication. Despite this, most research un underwater communication deals with the physical layer, with primitive and inflexible multiple access. Acoustic communication is commonly used underwater, since radio waves suffer from severe attenuation in water. The propagation environment is challenging and characterised by highly variable spatial and temporal conditions due to multi-path propagation and Doppler effects amongst other factors. The propagation delays are both long and variable if transmitting nodes are located at different distances from a receiver. These unique conditions make the design of MAC protocols particularly challenging and very little has been done in this area.

This project offers great scope for novel research in this exciting research field. The issues surrounding the use of existing protocols in representative scenarios will be explored, based on simplified propagation models, through a combination of simulation and analytical methods. New approaches to meduim access control will be developed, capable of adapting to the time and space varying acoustic environments and data traffic fluctuations. One possibility to be explored is the use of fully distributed protocols based on machine learning, which have shown promise in prior research. Ideas may also be adopted from satellite systems, given the similar constraints with regard to long propagation delays.

For further details on this opportunity and how to apply, please visit the Department of Electronics website at:

Funding Notes

The studentship will cover the tuition fee at the home/EU rate (£4,165 in 2016/17) and a stipend at the standard research council rate for a period of 3 years (£14,057 in 2015/16) starting in October 2016.

Applicants should have or be about to graduate with at least an upper second class honours degree in Electronic and Electrical Engineering, Physics, Computer Science, Mathematics or a related subject.

Applicants are invited to contact Dr Paul Mitchell ([Email Address Removed]) for more information.

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