Standards and Legislation

The International Organisation for Standardization (ISO) (

NOC and Dstl staff analysing incoming glider data during MASSMO3. Image courtesy of NERC/Dstl/RNThe ISO is an independent, non-governmental international organisation with a membership of 163 national standards bodies. An ISO standard is developed by a panel of experts within a Technical Committee (TC). ISO TC 43 looks at standardisation in the field of acoustics, including methods of measuring acoustical phenomena, their generation transmission and reception, and all aspects of their effects on man and his environment. Sub-Committee 3 (SC3) covers underwater acoustics. Excluded from the Technical Committee’s scope is electro-acoustics and the implementation of specifications of the characteristics of measuring instruments for acoustic purposes (which are covered by IEC).

Technical Committee 43: Sub Committee 3

SC3 develops standards for underwater acoustics. It has working groups (WG) on:

  • Ship Noise Measurement (WG1)
  • Definitions and Terminology (WG2)
  • Marine Pile Driving (WG3)
  • Active Sonar Calibration Using Standard Targets (WG4).

New work items under consideration are:

  • Ambient noise monitoring.

The standards published by TC43 SC3 are available from ISO and BSI and include:

  • ISO 17208-1: Underwater acoustics — Quantities and procedures for description and measurement of underwater sound from ships – Part 1: Requirements for precision measurements in deep water used for comparison purposes. Published: March 2016.
  • ISO 17208-2: Underwater acoustics — Quantities and procedures for description and measurement of underwater sound from ships – Part 2: Determination of source levels from deep water measurements. Published: June 2019.
  • ISO 17208-3: Underwater acoustics — Quantities and procedures for description and measurement of underwater sound from ships – Part 3: Requirements for shallow water measurements. Under development.
  • ISO 18405: Underwater Acoustics – terminology. Published: April 2017.
  • ISO 18406: Underwater acoustics — Measurement of radiated underwater sound from percussive pile driving. Published: April 2017.

International Electrotechnical Commission (IEC) (

The IEC is the leading organization for the preparation and publication of International Standards for all electrical, electronic and related technologies. Technical Committees (TC) and Sub Committees carry out the standards work of the IEC. In all, some 10,000 experts worldwide participate in the technical work of the IEC.

Technical Committee 87 - ‘ultrasound’

Technical Committee 87 Working Group 15 (WG15) covers the calibration of underwater electroacoustic devices. Relevant published IEC standards are available from IEC and BSI and include:

  • IEC 60500: Underwater acoustics – Hydrophones – Properties of hydrophones in the frequency range 1 Hz to 500 kHz. Published April 2017.
  • IEC 60565-1: Underwater acoustics – Hydrophones – Calibration of hydrophones – Part 1: Procedures for free-field calibration of hydrophones. Published April 2020.
  • IEC 60565-2: Underwater acoustics – Hydrophones – Calibration of hydrophones – Part 2: Part 2: Procedures for low frequency pressure calibration. Published October 2019.
  • IEC 60050-8-1-32: International Electrotechnical Vocabulary Part 32. Under revision. Likely publication date: November 2020.
  • IEC 63305: Underwater acoustics – Calibration of acoustic wave vector receivers. Under development. Likely publication date: 2022.

Potential new work items are:

  • Calibration of Autonomous Recorders and digital hydrophones.

Technical Committee 114 – ‘Marine Renewable Energy Devices’

  • IEC 62600-40 - Marine Energy; wave, tidal and other water current converters – Part 40: acoustic characterization of marine energy converters (wave and tidal stream energy devices). Scope covers methodologies for measurement of radiated acoustic noise. Technical Specification. Publication date: 2019.

ISO/IEC Joint Technical Committee (JTC)

Working Group 7 - Sensor Networks

  • ISO/IEC 30140-1:2018 Information technology – Underwater acoustic sensor network (UWASN). Part 1: Overview and requirements
  • ISO/IEC 30140-2:2017 Information technology – Underwater acoustic sensor network (UWASN). Part 2: Reference architecture
  • ISO/IEC 30140-3:2018 Information technology – Underwater acoustic sensor network (UWASN). Part 3: Entities and interface
  • ISO/IEC 30140-4:2018 Information technology – Underwater acoustic sensor network (UWASN). Part 4: Interoperability

British Standards Institution (BSI) (

The BSI is the national standards body of the UK. It produces technical standards on a wide range products and services and also supplies certification and standards-related services to business. BSI organises the national “mirror” committees to ISO and IEC standards committees, containing UK experts in the fields of interest. BSI generally adopts ISO and IEC standards as BS standards and makes them available for purchase from BSI. 

BSI/EH/1/7 deals with underwater acoustics and mirrors ISO TC43 SC3. The Committee’s Membership includes 25 UK experts, a number of which are members of the Underwater Sound Forum. The Chair of EH/1/7 is Stephen Robinson, NPL.

BSI EPL/87 deals with electroacoustic calibration for underwater acoustics and mirrors IEC TC87. The chair off EPL/87 is Andrew Hurrell.