Underwater Acoustics

Group co-ordinator(s)

Freya Malcher

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Madalin Facino
University of Bath

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Benjamin Ford
National Physical Laboratory

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Dr Alan Hunter
University of Bath

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Dr Duncan Williams

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Dr Nikhil Banda
Drumgrange Ltd

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Stephen Robinson
National Physical Laboratory

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Open Access Underwater Acoustics Data  http://acoustics.ac.uk/open-access-underwater-acoustics-data/ Currently being updated, previous version available here Open Access Underwater Acoustic Data – May 2021 – The UK Acoustics Network

Underwater Acoustics Monthly Webinar Series  https://acoustics.ac.uk/underwater-acoustics-monthly-webinar-series/

Recordings available on YouTube here

Upcoming events:

11th September 2023 – Underwater Acoustics Data Challenge Workshop

17th November 2023 – Closing Date for Research Soundings Competition

13th December 2023 – Third Underwater Acoustics PhD Symposium Day

Past events:

Underwater Acoustics Data Challenge Workshop

The first Data Challenge Workshop from the UKAN Special Interest Group in Underwater Acoustics was held in Sheffield on Friday 8 July 2022. It was attended by 15 participants and challenge leaders from around the country. It was great to see new connections being made and the seeds of some good research ideas. Three challenges were tackled throughout the day.

Ultra – “Passive acoustic underwater detection and tracking”: A multi-stage solution was proposed: using a segmentation algorithm over a sliding window to detect track vs non-track features; then using a trained neural network to separate and enumerate the segmented tracks; and finally using a recurrent neural network to forward-predict and associate tracks between windows.

Thales – “Detecting and classifying underwater objects in forward-looking sonar images”: A detector and classifier was implemented using transfer learning on a pre-trained YOLO (you-only-look-once) convolutional neural network. It showed surprisingly good performance after training for only 30 min. The team continued training after the event (12 hours, overnight) and achieved better performance, with a precision and recall of 93% and 97%, respectively.

Sonardyne / Newcastle – “Acoustic bio-mimicry for covert underwater communication”: A demonstration was given of how a symbolic pattern could be hidden within a marine mammal vocalisation. This showed promise for camouflaging messages within a natural bio-acoustic soundscape. However, further consideration is needed for detection, message encoding / decoding, and other aspects of communication.

I learnt more from this event than from all other ML workshops combined.” – Joanna Watts, PhD Student, University of Sheffield


An excellent initiative and forum to bring together Prime-SMEs, academia and early career research talent, for networking and co-working on emerging challenges in subsea acoustics using a refreshing data-centric approach.” – Jonathan Davies, Challenge Leader, Sonardyne

Based on positive and constructive feedback from the attendees, we are intending to run the event again next summer, but bigger! The event will be held over 2 days and we will be extending the invite to the wider community of Special Interest Groups within UKAN.

Please contact us if you would like to propose a challenge or get involved.


General Information:



The Special Interest Group (SIG) for Underwater Acoustics (SIGUA) is concerned with the generation, transmission, and reception of sound in the underwater environment including the interaction between sound and underwater surfaces and structures. The principal function of the SIGUA is to provide a forum for researchers, practitioners and users of underwater acoustics, covering analysis, modelling, synthesis, and measurement, across all possible underwater applications.


Historically, the UK has held a strong position internationally in underwater acoustics, and underwater acoustics has been represented at senior levels in industry and government, with considerable influence on national research priorities including funding. This has been eroded in recent years and the SIGUA will take steps to: (i) increase the national profile and importance of underwater acoustics; (ii) increase the level of senior representation in underwater acoustics; (iii) increase the number of early career researchers in underwater acoustics; and (iv) to increase the number of contributions to journals and international conference in underwater acoustics.

The main way this is expected to be achieved is by demonstrating the value of research in underwater acoustics to national challenges and strategic areas for research development. The SIGUA should also develop ways to capture different stakeholder valuations of research in underwater acoustics and to demonstrate the wider value to public life and its impact on society and the economy.

To support this the SIGUA will draw together researchers and practitioners across academia, industry and government, with the aim that the membership of the SIGUA will have a representative from all UK based institutions concerned with underwater acoustics, and encourage participation and contributions from users in other parts of industry and government, The SIGUA will also work closely with the other SIGs to identify needs in other areas of acoustics.

Specific objectives

The SIGUA will divide its efforts between a series of workshops, conferences, and other scientific events to exchange ideas and promote discussion between researchers, practitioners and users and a set of specific objectives. Some of the specific objectives that have been identified include: (i) produce a picture of the UK research landscape over the past 3 years considering such aspects as research trends, priorities, and funding; (ii) produce case studies showing the value and impact of underwater acoustics; (iii) produce an overview of current research priorities for practitioners and users; (iv) assess potential sources of funding for research priorities; (v) assess expertise available to support research priorities; (vi) develop list of up to 3 grand challenges in underwater acoustics; (vii) develop strategy to address gaps in senior representatives, early career researchers, and available expertise (if appropriate).

In parallel, the SIGUA will identify useful resources for underwater acoustics to be included on the UKAN website (www.acoustics.ac.uk). This will include a series of online educational resources, such as online seminars, events, such as grant writing workshops and conferences, and databases, such as lists of available facilities, models, and who knows what. These objectives will be discussed and agreed between members in the first six months of the network.

It is expected that a small management team will be established to coordinate the planning of scientific events, and other core SIGUA meetings, and sub-teams of members will be established to address the specific objectives. The management team will include at least one early career researcher.

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