Underwater Localization via Wideband Direction-of-Arrival Estimation Using Acoustic Arrays of Arbitrary Shape

Underwater sensing and remote telemetry tasks necessitate the accurate geo-location of sensor data series, which often requires underwater acoustic arrays. These are ensembles of hydrophones that can be jointly operated in order to, e.g., direct acoustic energy towards a given direction, or to estimate the direction of arrival of a desired signal. When the available equipment does not provide the required level of accuracy, it may be convenient to merge multiple transceivers into a larger acoustic array, in order to achieve better processing performance. In this paper, we name such a structure an “array of opportunity” to signify the often inevitable sub-optimality of the resulting array design, e.g., a distance between nearest array elements larger than half the shortest acoustic wavelength that the array would receive. The most immediate consequence is that arrays of opportunity may be affected by spatial ambiguity, and may require additional processing to avoid large errors in wideband direction of arrival (DoA) estimation, especially as opposed to narrowband processing. We consider the design of practical algorithms to achieve accurate detections, DoA estimates, and position estimates using wideband arrays of opportunity. For this purpose, we rely jointly on DoA and rough multilateration estimates to eliminate spatial ambiguities arising from the array layout. By means of emulations that realistically reproduce underwater noise and acoustic clutter, we show that our algorithm yields accurate DoA and location estimates, and in some cases it allows arrays of opportunity to outperform properly designed arrays. For example, at a signal-to-noise ratio of –20 dB, a 15-element array of opportunity achieves lower average and median localization error (27 m and 12 m, respectively) than a 30-element array with proper λ/2 element spacing (33 m and 15 m, respectively). We confirm the good accuracy of our approach via emulation results, and through a proof-of-concept lake experiment, where our algorithm applied to a 10-element array of opportunity achieves a 90th-percentile DoA estimation error of 4° and a 90th-percentile total location error of 5 m when applied to a real 10-element array of opportunity.
MDPI Sensors
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