I need to make shallow (max 2m) underwater wireless sensor network. Data payload is about 10kB/s. I know that VLF band (~3-30kHz)could be the best solutions for that, but cause of time-to-market I cannot make hardware and software from the ground.

Maybe someone could share own-self experience in this filed. If band 100-900MHz could be enough to send 10kB/s from one device to another - from 2m underwater to over a dozen cm from water surface? Maybe some IC for ultrasonic communication exist? Another ideas?


  • 1
    \$\begingroup\$ Anything can be done with enough power and antenna size. "kB/s" or "kb/s" could make all the difference if power is limited. Magnetic field data transfer is not as affected by seawater as EM field. \$\endgroup\$
    – Andy aka
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 11:25
  • \$\begingroup\$ Maybe try asking on the robotics or ham radio stack exchange sites for an additional perspective \$\endgroup\$
    – Jodes
    Commented Apr 7, 2015 at 11:33

1 Answer 1


Here is what appears to be a very informative document entitled "Underwater Radio Communication" by Lloyd Butler VK5BR. Here are some interesting extracts.

  • Attenuation (α) in dB/metre = 0. 0173 √(fσ)
  • where f = frequency in hertz and
  • σ = conductivity in mhos/metre (siemens per metre)

Here's a useful graph linked with the above formula. It basically plots attenuation against a base of frequency for "fresh water and salt water. As an example, at 100kHz, Adelaide fresh water attenuates at about 1.5 dB/m whereas sea water at 100kHz is about 10 dB/m.

enter image description here

The document then goes on to discuss loss due to water/air interface (surprisingly high) but improves dramatically with frequency. Another interesting point formulates the wavelength of a transmission in a conductive medium: -

  • Wavelength (λ) in metres = 1000 √{10/(fσ)}

For instance, in sea water, wavelength at 10 kHz is only 15.8 metres compared to 30 km in space. The upshot of this is that it makes antenna design at lower frequencies much easier because of considerable size reductions.

The document then goes on to discuss several scenarios of transmission and reception.

Regards the situation in the question, I'm thinking that 100 MHz might be pretty good for 2m depth because, although the attenuation is high at about 80 dB for the two metre depth, the interface loss at the surface is quite low at about 10 dB. This is a total loss of about 90 dB and would seem "do-able" for a transmission power of 1 watt. This is the fresh-water scenario. For the seawater scenario, the attenuation is significantly worse at 346 dB!!

If considering seawater then you must go significantly lower in frequency - maybe something like 1MHz.


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