WHEN the one-man diving submarine Deepsea Challenger piloted by James Cameron made the record-breaking dive to Challenger Deep on March 26, 2012, a West Australian company played the critical role in ensuring the two-way communications functioned seamlessly.
When the film genius behind Titanic and Terminator 2 began planning for the ground breaking voyage, maintaining reliable two-way communications with the surface was always going to be a challenge and a priority.
Mr Cameron remained at depths of 10,898 metres for several hours, exploring, filming and collecting samples. With only a select number of organisations world-wide able to provide effective solutions for such conditions, Mr Cameron turned to L-3 Nautronix and L-3 ELAC Nautik, both part of the L-3 Marine and Power Systems flagship, specialising in maritime technology for US and allied navies.
L-3 Nautronix project manager and expedition team member Paul Roberts says his company’s underwater communications system was critical in maintaining direct contact between the submarine and the surafce vessels above.
“It was about the middle of 2011 when they approached us, looking for a communications system that would go to the bottom of the ocean. There’s only a couple of companies in the world that can provide that sort of capability and we are one of them.”
The L-3 underwater communications solution included the MASQ signaling system from L-3 Nautronix complemented by the UT 3000 underwater telephone system from L-3 ELAC Nautik.
The MASQ system provides next-generation, reliable Through Water Communications (TWC) as an underwater SMS-style messaging system operating at speed and depth. L-3 ELAC Nautik’s UT 3000 is a premier underwater communications system that combines analogue and digital communication in a single unit.
The units also provided other critical services to Mr Cameron’s dive, monitoring his vital signs, the submarine’s oxygen and battery levels, depth, speed, and range from the support vessels, and had to be made to fit a range of other equipment.
“Cameron being Cameron, he had lots of audio and image capturing equipment as well as a bunch of things for taking samples. So he’s really inside a confined space and surrounded by all this electronics equipment to take moving pictures, scientific samples,” Mr Roberts says.
“He works very hard, has very high standards and he expects that from everyone else. There was a substantial amount of pressure to get the whole expedition done in the sort of 2011–2012 timeframe because of the weather window. So he’s a hard driver but earns a lot of respect because he gets a lot done.”
Mr Roberts says his company is now interested in exploring potential applications for their technology to Western Australia’s natural resources sector.