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Improved efficiency for marine operations such as offshore wind-power and mineral resources: Second series of underwater optical wireless communication devices created by Shimadzu corporation


Shimadzu Corporation recently launched the MC500, an underwater optical wireless communication device capable of transmitting and receiving data at 20 Mbps (20 megabits per second) over a maximum distance of 80 meters. A unique optical wireless communication device in the form of a modem, it enables high-speed underwater communications by transmitting and receiving green and blue laser beams, which have relatively low attenuation even underwater. The device costs 30 million yen (excluding tax, includes one blue-emitting and one green-emitting modem). The company aims to sell five sets of the product in the first year after its launch.

Underwater optical wireless communication device "MC500"
Provided by Shimadzu

Shimadzu Corporation launched the MC100 in February 2020, which enabled underwater data transmission over shorter distances (10 meters). The MC500 is the second product in the series.

The company's devices are mounted on underwater drones called Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) or Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) to enable communication between individual drones or between drones and offshore vessels, etc.

Through these products, Shimadzu Corporation will improve the efficiency of offshore operations, such as installing and maintaining infrastructure like offshore wind power generation, inspections of submarine pipelines, and exploring resources such as rare earth minerals.

Currently, underwater communication is mainly performed using wires or sound waves. However, wired systems restrict drone movement, and sound wave-based systems are limited to just a few 10s of Kbps. In addition, many underwater optical wireless communication systems use LEDs as a light source.

The company has developed the MC series of underwater optical wireless communication devices to address these issues. Its products combine high-speed communication at up to 20 Mbps with low power consumption by employing a semiconductor laser (LD) with excellent directivity and response speeds. The MC500 can switch between 1, 10, and 20 Mbps communication speeds depending on the application and environment, enabling stable communication even under ambient light such as the sun. It also offers full duplex (bidirectional) communication. The MC500 has a transmission range of 50 meters at 20 Mbps, 60 meters at 10 Mbps, and 80 meters at 1 Mbps.

With the MC Series, the company aims to digitally transform marine development worldwide by providing an underwater Wi-Fi-style communication environment to companies and research institutes working in marine fields. The company cooperated with the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) in a demonstration using an AUV to automatically collect data from an observation system installed on the seafloor. The MC500, which is in the prototype stage, was mounted on the AUV. It was the world's first successful demonstration of the "harvesting" recovery method.

This article has been translated by JST with permission from The Science News Ltd.( Unauthorized reproduction of the article and photographs is prohibited.

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