PhD in distributed MIMO sonar for underwater monitoring (University of York)

Closing Date
12 March 2021

About the Project

Acoustic waves are the only means for long-range (>100m) underwater signal transmission. Recent developments in underwater acoustic (UWA) communications, underwater robotics and vehicles make it timely to consider the development of cooperative UWA networks based on the use of static and moving sensor nodes. Such networks can significantly enhance performance and reduce the cost of surveillance operations, especially if UMS sonar and communication systems are jointly designed and optimised to achieve the greatest performance. For UMS, passive and active sensor (sonar) systems are used. Passive systems are typically lower cost, but underwater targets can produce low-level acoustic noise such that they cannot provide high detection performance. Active multiple-input multiple-output (MIMO) sonar systems with joint processing of information from multiple nodes can significantly improve UMS performance. An important task is to develop distributed MIMO target detection techniques across a network of nodes and to understand how the network communication signals can be exploited to further enhance the capability of the system. The acoustic communication channel is limited in capacity. With larger networks, the inherent low data rate of underwater communication systems will also render it necessary to have a co-existing sonar and communication system. With an UMS system processing signals from multiple nodes, joint communication-sonar network protocols are required to prevent mutual interference. The long communication sessions required for transmission of large amounts of data between multiple nodes can significantly limit the target detection performance due to the limited time available for sonar transmission. Existing communication signals can be additionally used to play the role of MIMO sonar signals, thus providing extra potential to improve the target detection. This however poses additional problems, e.g., since communication signals carrying unknown data introduce uncertainty which the MIMO sonar system would have to deal with.

A key purpose of this PhD is to undertake a feasibility study of using communication signals transmitted in the network for the purpose of MIMO sonar operation. The benefits and drawbacks of such a combined approach will be analysed in comparison with using separate signals for communications and MIMO sonar.

The underwater acoustic communication laboratory possesses equipment for conduction sea and lake experiments, including underwater remotely operating vehicles, sonars, communication modems, computational means for numerical simulation, in-house software for modelling the signal propagation underwater, etc. A new research building is currently under construction on the Heslington East campus that will include a large water tank for underwater experiments. This topic is closely related to a number of recently funded industrial projects and the following government funded projects through the Engineering and Physical Sciences Research Council (EPSRC):

  1. COUSIN – Cooperative Underwater Surveillance Networks (joint project with Newcastle and Sheffield).
  2. USMART – Smart Dust for Large Scale Underwater Wireless Sensing (joint project with Newcastle and Edinburgh).
  3. FD – Full-Duplex for Underwater Acoustic Communications (joint project with Newcastle).

This research project will build upon experience and recent success in the theoretical research and practical design of UWA sensor networks at York. The research will require using mathematical methods as well as methods of signal processing, communications and information theory. The novel designs will be validated using numerical simulation and sea/lake experiments where possible. The successful candidate will have the opportunity to work closely with other members of the research group working on these and related topics.

Entry requirements:

Candidates must have (or expect to obtain) a minimum of a UK upper second class honours degree (2.1) or equivalent in Electronic and Electrical Engineering, Physics, Computer Science, Mathematics or a related subject.

How to apply:

Applicants must apply via the University’s online application system at Please read the application guidance first so that you understand the various steps in the application process. To apply, please select the PhD in Electronic Engineering for October 2021 entry. Please specify in your PhD application that you would like to be considered for this studentship.

Funding Notes

This EPSRC DTP funded studentship will cover the tuition fee at the home rate (£4,407 in 2020/21) and a stipend at the standard research council rate for a period of up to 3.5 years (£15,285 in 2020/21).
UK and international students are eligible to apply. Please refer to UKRI website (View Website) and Annex B of the UKRI Training Grant Terms and Conditions (View Website) for full eligibility criteria.
Posted on 1st March 2021 in Job Opportunities in Acoustics