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Close-range underwater sensing of motion-based life signs can be performed with low power Doppler radar and ultrasound techniques. Corresponding noise and range performance trade-offs are examined here, with regard to choice of frequency and technology. The frequency range examined includes part of the UHF and microwave spectrum. Underwater detection of motion by radar in freshwater and saltwater are demonstrated. Radar measurements exhibited reduced susceptibility to noise as compared to ultrasound. While higher frequency radar exhibited better signal to noise ratio, propagation was superior for lower frequencies. Radar detection of motion through saltwater was also demonstrated at restricted ranges (1–2 cm) with low power transmission (10 dBm). The results facilitate the establishment of guidelines for optimal choice in technology for the underwater measurement motion-based life signs, with respect to trade offs involving range and noise.