Project Details


Developing submarine drones for the internet of underwater things

Project URL:
Project Twitter: @fp7sunrise

  • Economic Empowerment
  • Education
  • Environment & Sustainability
  • Data
  • Physical Computing

The Internet of Things (IoT) is a smart network of devices that connects everything from cars to commercial containers to home appliances to the net, and that promises to help us better manage the world around us. However, 70% of the planet is under water, where IoT connections are hard to set up and maintain.

“We can’t use radio waves, for example, because they will only carry signals for a few metres in a submarine environment,” explains Chiara Petrioli, a professor in computer science at the University of Rome La Sapienza.

Petrioli is spearheading the European Union’s SUNRISE project, aimed at building an underwater communications system based on acoustic waves that can travel tens of kilometres under water. 

Learning from the communication patterns of marine mammals, Petrioli’s research group has developed new software and hardware solutions for integrating modems, nodes and drones equipped with sensors that can monitor things like oxygen levels and pressure, and communicate with each other in water, as well as with their terrestrial counterparts. 

The project promises to help us monitor gas pipelines, examine submerged archaeological sites and study marine geology. “It’s so close to our economy – oil and gas exploration, aquaculture, wind energy production are examples of industrial activities which are more and more performed offshore,” says Petrioli. 

So far, the team has tested prototypes at a number of locations in the Mediterranean Sea, where their system successfully located a lost container in a port, and showed that mini-submarines can respond to simple directions and transmit data in real time to an onshore command centre. 

The team is now looking to set up test centres off the coast of the USA, in Dutch lakes, and in the Black Sea in Turkey. Find out more at

Image courtesy of SUNRISE Project

Last updated: 13th of September, 2016

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