Data Transmission using Visible Light Communication (VLC) for Undersea Platforms
Navy SBIR 2018.1 - Topic N181-070
NAVSEA - Mr. Dean Putnam -
Opens: January 8, 2018 - Closes: February 7, 2018 (8:00 PM ET)


TITLE: Data Transmission using Visible Light Communication (VLC) for Undersea Platforms


TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Ground/Sea Vehicles

ACQUISITION PROGRAM: PMS 435, Submarine Electromagnetic Systems Program Office

OBJECTIVE: Develop visible light communications (VLC) system for undersea platforms.

DESCRIPTION: Development of a secure, high-speed, energy- and cost-efficient VLC prototype device will assist the Navy in reducing the increasingly larger burden of cable management with respect to Ethernet connectivity.  Submarine electronic warfare (EW) next generation architecture will require a variety of different connectivity solutions to enable its multi-layered architecture.  Solutions range from high-speed networks (10GbE, 40GbE, 100GbE, and beyond) to more conventional speeds such as the well-known 1GbE which provides the vast majority of connectivity in today’s systems. There is potential to replace much of the 1GbE cabling if a secure, wireless system were implemented.

Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi) is the current method of sending digital/analog data over a communication medium and has become a preferred method of data transmission.  At times, Wi-Fi can be very reliable but the Electromagnetic Interference (EMI) it can cause and security vulnerabilities it can create present a problem for the Navy.  This SBIR topic seeks to increase reliability of systems onboard undersea platforms through development of a VLC system.

With the concerns Wi-Fi presents, an alternate wireless network transport solution is desirable.  Light Fidelity (Li-Fi) is a wireless networking system that provides data transmission through light and would reduce/eliminate EMI concerns, thus improving system performance/reliability.  If additional signal strength is required, Li-Fi attocells have no interference from, and add no interference to, the radio frequency’s counterparts such as femtocell networks.  Li-Fi is still in its development state where there has been a prototype designed, tested, and presented but not finalized.  This technology will need additional research and development (R&D) to prove and demonstrate its effectiveness and reliability within/exceeding a 4-meter range.

The solutions within VLC technology (Li-Fi included) are preferred in making use of existing incoherent Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) for solid-state lighting as both transmitters and receivers in developing a VLC network.  Compared to its competing technology Wi-Fi, Li-Fi provides an increase in bandwidth (BW), elimination of EMI, and increased security.  This form of connection is highly reliant on line-of-sight (LoS), as the connection can be disconnected from obstructing the light’s path.  This might seem to be a negative attribute but can lead to improved security; it would eliminate data leakage.

Li-Fi would appeal to not only the Navy but throughout commercial industries.  With the reliable security it provides, this technology can be applicable to any application that is currently using Wi-Fi as its main source of data transmission.  The technology’s advantage over Wi-Fi of not creating EMI would allow medical facilities, airplanes, or any location that would normally not allow Wi-Fi to use it.

PHASE I: Develop a concept for a Li-Fi system in a system with the capabilities of transmitting data using light instead of radio frequency.  Demonstrate the feasibility of the concept through either modeling or simulation in meeting the Navy needs and establish that the concept can be developed into a useful product for the Navy.  The Phase I Option, if awarded, will address the initial design specification and capabilities description to build a prototype in Phase II. Develop a Phase II plan.

PHASE II: Based on the result of Phase I and the Phase II Statement of Work (SOW), develop and deliver a prototype of a system with the capability to transmit data from a light source to an electronic device.  Evaluate the prototype to determine its capability in performance, either equivalent or exceeding that of Wi-Fi in terms of transmission rate and throughput. In completion of Phase I, the company will develop a prototype to be tested and validated against Phase I model or simulations.  Prepare a Phase III SOW to transition the technology developed for Navy use.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Support the Navy in transitioning the technology for Navy use. Develop a system according to Phase III SOW for evaluation to determine effectiveness in an operational relevant environment.  Support the Navy for test and validation to certify and qualify the system to be transitioned into the AN/BLQ-10B (V) program.

Outside of the Navy, the system can be used as a general data transmission system to alleviate the interference and clutter associated with current Wi-Fi technology.  This system would be an innovative technology when it comes to a reduction in interference, increase in security, speed, and potentially be an innovation that will receive support from many companies.  Unlike Wi-Fi, which presents a high potential for EMI, the proposed system will be permitted in electromagnetically sensitive locations where radio waves are not, such as around medical equipment in hospitals.  An application that can be seen from a system with the capability to transmit data through light is ideal, especially when using it to establish a connection between the internet and a laptop or mobile device (e.g., an individual using an LED lamp to study).  In non-technical language, this system will operate similar to Wi-Fi, but solving the issues involving interference, security, and ultimately speed.


1. Singh, S., Kakamanshadi, G. and Gupta, S. “Visible Light Communication-an emerging wireless communication technology.” 2015 2nd International Conference on Recent Advances in Engineering & Computational Sciences (RAECS), Chandigarh, 2015.

2. Dimitrov, S., and Haas, H. “Principles of LED Communications: Towards Network Li-Fi.” Cambridge Univ. Press, Mar. 2015.

3. Haas, H., Yin, L., Wang, Y. and Chen, C. "What is LiFi?", Journal of Lightwave Technology, March 15, 2016, Vol. 34, No. 6, pp. 1533-1544.

KEYWORDS: Light Fidelity (Li-Fi); Wireless Fidelity (Wi-Fi); Visible Light Communication (VLC); Data Transmission; Electromagnetic Interference (EMI); Line of Sight (LoS)


These Navy Topics are part of the overall DoD 2018.1 SBIR BAA. The DoD issued its 2018.1 BAA SBIR pre-release on November 29, 2017, which opens to receive proposals on January 8, 2018, and closes February 7, 2018 at 8:00 PM ET.

Between November 29, 2017 and January 7, 2018 you may talk directly with the Topic Authors (TPOC) to ask technical questions about the topics. During these dates, their contact information is listed above. For reasons of competitive fairness, direct communication between proposers and topic authors is not allowed starting January 8, 2018
when DoD begins accepting proposals for this BAA.
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