This Report was presented to the Faculty of the Graduate School of The University of Texas at Austin in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of

Master of Science in Engineering


Design and Implementation of an Underwater Acoustic Transponder  


Kenneth A. Perrine, M.S.E.

The University of Texas at Austin, May 2011


Supervisor: Brian L. Evans

Reader: Neal Hall


A transponder for underwater acoustic data communications is prototyped. The mobile transponder emits a data sequence whenever it detects a ping from a base station. The data sequence includes GPS coordinates and UTC time sent over a conservative and brief 12 kbps turbo-coded BPSK link, and a 6 kBJPEG image sent over an ambitious 67 kbps turbo-coded 16-QAM link. The range of the transponder from the base station can also be accurately derived. Several challenges exist in decoding the underwater signals at the base station receiver, including Doppler distortion and multipath. While experimental results show that the ranges for decoding the 16-QAM signals with a single hydrophone are limited to less than 25 m, the BPSK signals prove to be much more robust, decoding at ranges of up to 625 m. Experiments with delays and transducer tether length indicate methods for improving reliability in the presence of reverberation and thermocline. This transponder uses mostly off-the-shelf parts and is anticipated to be improved when paired with advanced sonar array devices.

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For more information contact: Kenneth Perrine <>