New Wireless Modem Allows Underwater Communication

Shimadzu Corporation has released the MC500 underwater optical wireless modem. To illustrate, this proprietary underwater optical wireless modem is capable of high-speed underwater communication by sending and receiving green and blue laser light.

The MC500 is the second in the series, continuing from the MC100 released in Japan in February 2020. It particularly suits short-range (10 meter) communications.

MC500 Underwater Optical Wireless Modem

This modem has a maximum communication range of 80 meters. An autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) or remotely operated vehicle (ROV) can securely mount this modem. Hence, facilitating communication between robots or between an underwater robot and a ship on the sea. In addition, the modem enables Shimadzu to contribute in making marine activities more efficient. This includes installation and maintenance of offshore infrastructures including wind power plants and oil & gas markets, inspection of seabed pipelines, and searches for rare earth elements and other mineral resources.

LEDs as Light Source

At present, underwater communication is possible on wired or acoustic techniques. However, with wired communication, the movement of the underwater drone is limited by the cable, and with acoustic communication, the communication rate cannot exceed several dozen kilobyte per second (Kbps).

Many underwater wireless optical communication systems use LEDs as the light source. However, Shimadzu has developed the MC series of underwater optical wireless modems featuring both high-speed communication of up to 20Mbps. In addition, it has low power consumption by adopting laser-diode, which provides excellent directivity and response rate. Shimadzu aims to achieve a global digital transformation (DX) of marine development by providing a so-called underwater Wi-Fi communication environment to businesses and research organizations in marine fields.

Rendering of MC500 underwater optical wireless modem


The MC500 achieves a maximum communication beam angle of 40 degrees and a communication distance of 80 meters. Hence, this product provides large-capacity file transfer and real-time video communication. This dramatically enhances underwater productivity.

The MC500 can switch communication rate of 1Mbps, 10Mbps, and 20Mbps, depending on the application and environment. In addition, it is also capable of stable communication under ambient lighting conditions due to sunlight or illumination.

Moreover, the MC series achieves bidirectional communication using a full duplex communication system. Hence, the two modems comprising the MC500 enable large-capacity data transmission and reception simultaneously.

Shimadzu collaborated in verification tests involving the automatic collection of data from observation systems the Japan Agency for Marine-Earth Science and Technology (JAMSTEC) installed on the seabed using an AUV. Most importantly, the collaboration yielded the first successful test of the said harvesting data collection method. The AUV has installed MC500 prototype.