AP uses Sonardyne's tech to stream first live broadcast to global audiences from an underwater submersible

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Sonardyne International Ltd. has announced that the Associated Press used its BlueComm wireless through-water optical modem technology to stream the first live broadcast to global audiences from an underwater submersible. 

Coming from a two-person submersible operating in waters off the Seychelles, in the Indian Ocean, the live broadcast via YouTube was “the first multi-camera live signal in full broadcast quality from manned submersibles using optical video transmission techniques, in which the pictures transmit through the waves using the electromagnetic spectrum,” according to the AP.

“Without BlueComm, this could not be done. The submersibles have no cable connection to the vessel, so they cannot send their video feed through a cable,” says Darryl Newborough, technical director, Sonardyne.

“Acoustic communications technologies work well, and over long distances, but their bandwidth is not wide enough to support live video streaming. BlueComm is the only option.”

Although the submersible in this case was manned, underwater communications have been of keen interest to the unmanned systems community as well, as autonomous vehicles often have to surface to send along data, or be connected by a tether.

The broadcast is part of an expedition by the Nekton Deep Ocean Research Institute’s First Descent, which is exploring some of the least explored areas of the ocean in the world around the Seychelles. These efforts are part of a project that seeks to increase understanding and help protect the marine life they contain.

Real-time video from one of the mission’s two submersibles was able to be streamed through the water and then broadcast live across the world thanks to using the BlueComm free space optical modem on the submersible, along with a BlueComm receiver deployed from the hull of the Ocean Zephyr research vessel. With this broadcast, the public was essentially able to join the scientists as they explore their underwater habitats.

Next week, as part of Sky Ocean Rescue, Sky News and Sky Atlantic plan to broadcast three live “subsea programs.” The programs will include live simultaneous broadcast from both of the mission’s two submersibles, again using BlueComm.

Sonardyne notes that video transmission from a manned submersible using optical communications has been achieved before, but this will be the first time it has been achieved from two working close together, which means overcoming the challenges of signal interference.