A depth record has been obtained by the ISE Explorer Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) ‘Eagle Ray’, a cooperative venture of the University of Southern Mississippi and the University of Mississippi. Operated by the National Institute for Undersea Science and Technology (NIUST), the Eagle Ray AUV completed a survey in the Gulf of Mexico to a depth of 1,634 metres.
The survey was conducted at 50 metres altitude while acquiring multibeam sonar and chirp sub-bottom profiler data. We are currently operating from the LUMCON vessel RV Pelican. The AUV operations personnel are Roy Jarnagin, Undersea Vehicle Systems Engineer for NIUS Dr. Arne Diercks, Max Woolsey, Marco D’Emidio, Steven Tidwell, and Clayton Dike.
Initially built and delivered in 2003, the Explorer class AUV is rated by the USM for deepwater operation to 2,200 metres. Its 5.5 metre length provides payload volume for mission-specific sensors, as well as the multibeam sonar and conductivity-temperature-density (CTD) sensor. Surveys greater than 150km long and deployments over 36 hours in duration can be achieved.
In addition to Eagle Ray, NIUST operates a Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution (WHOI) SeaBED class AUV named Mola Mola. This vehicle also completed a mission to a depth of 1,612 meters. The Mola Mola vehicle acquires photographs of the seabed while operating at 3 metres altitude.