The Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution has been awarded funds by the National Science Foundation to develop a tethered robotic underwater vehicle for under-ice exploration by 2014. By employing a novel light-weight tether for data-only communications, the vehicle will provide the U.S. Polar Research Community with a capability to tele-operate, under direct real-time human supervision, a remotely-controlled inspection and survey vehicle under fixed ice at ranges up to 20 km distant from a support ship or other deployment site. Physical tethering of an underwater robot is required to provide low-latency, high bandwidth control and real-time data return. The vehicle will enable exploration and detailed exploration in under-ice environments through the use of high-definition video coupled to a suite of chemical and biological sensors. Long-range light-fiber tether technology provides the high bandwidth link necessary for real-time control under the direction of the science party which AUVs cannot meet.More
The mission: determining the utility of AUVs for collecting data on the rapidly receding Helheim Glacier.
They needed to determine  how an underwater vehicle could reach the glacier,  find a sonar system that would work with both glacial and arctic ice, and  understand the operational challenges inherent in such an isolated environment. The team also needed to assess operational logistics for future AUV operations through the deployment of glider AUVs for oceanography and an assessment is also needed for a multi-narrow beam sonar for iceberg profiling and for the creation of future obstacle avoidance algorithms.More
Scientific tools have come a long way from the simple, leather-bound journals 18th century naturalists were toting on expeditions into uncharted lands. But hundreds of years later, we are still asking many of the same questions about the natural world: what’s out there and how does it work?
A handful of adventurous researchers have been probing the northern frontiers of the Arctic Circle for decades, and last week, I was fortunate enough listen in as they offered their knowledge of this region to the experts at NOAA who specialize in marine oil spill preparedness and response. NOAA hosted the University of Alaska Fairbanks for an Arctic Oil Spill Science Workshop, setting to tackle the scariest natural disaster the Arctic could face in the coming century (outside of climate change, and in a way because of it).
The ENDURANCE autonomous underwater vehicle was developed and deployed to explore and map a unique environment: the waters of Lake Bonney in Taylor Valley, one of the McMurdo Dry Valleys of Antarctica. This permanently ice-covered lake presented several unique challenges and opportunities for exploration and mapping with an AUV. ENDURANCE was successfully deployed in the west lobe of Lake Bonney in the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 austral summer seasons, completing the rst full synoptic 3-D chemical prole and high-resolution 3-D geometric mapping of such a body of water. ENDURANCE successfully traversed the entire 1 km x 2 km lobe of the lake, including successful automated spooling of a science payload and automated docking into a deployment/recovery melt hole 0.25 m larger in diameter than the vehicle.More
Perspectives from the AUV Group – Alex Forrest and Andrew Hamilton
After leaving Cumberland Sound, we proceeded up the eastern coast of Baffin Island with the intention of making it to a potential iceberg target near Eclipse Sound at the northern tip of Baffin Island by July 29. Unfortunately, stiff 25 knot winds and high seas rose on Friday morning and so we were unable to deploy vessels or the AUV. The modified plan was to take the sheltered route south of Bylot Island through Eclipse Sound and Navy Board Inlet and look for suitable ice targets in Lancaster Sound where satellite imagery had identified some Petermann Ice Island fragments, The AUV team woke at 3:30am Saturday Morning with plans to conduct a helicopter reconnaissance of potential targets in the area. Unfortunately, the weather was uncooperative once again as a fog bank rolled in just as the flight crew was preparing to launch the helicopter at 4:00am.
Perspectives from the AUV Group – Val Schmidt
We arrived in Cumberland Sound on the evening of July 25th and the ship immediately commenced an SX90 sonar acoustic fisheries survey for Arctic Cod that they hope to find in this area. This was not part of our own effort, but rather that of the chief scientist for this leg, Louis Fortier. That said the SX90 is a new addition to the Amundsen and we are greatly interested in its operation. The main reason for our own interest is that it also has the capability to image the edges and estimate the thicknesses of icebergs. While the resolution is coarse, we hope it will provide ancillary data during our own effort at iceberg mapping in the next few days.
Perspectives from the AUV Group
Alex Forrest July 23, 2011
Our departure from Quebec City was delayed for a day, but sailing has been pretty smooth since. We’re now five days out, nearing the northernmost tip of Labrador, and soon will cross over to Baffin Island. For the Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) team, this means that we’re closing in on our objective of mapping the underside of an iceberg. For the team, which includes Alexander Forrest (University of California Davis), Andrew Hamilton (University of British Columbia), Derek Mueller(Carleton University), and Val Schmidt (Coastal Center for Ocean Mapping – University of New Hampshire), this AUV deployment represents the culmination of several months of working with the Canadian Ice Service in preparation for any envisioned scenario. Although the team has experience with AUVs under-‐ice in both the Arctic and Antarctica, this application has several challenges that haven’t previously been encountered. Unlike shorefast-‐ice tested before in earlier deployments, the target we are searching for will be moving and rotating while we are surveying. Typical drift rates can be 10 – 15 km per day. Additionally, we will be testing a bathymetric mapping sonar unit that we have only had access to since the day before our departure.
C & C Technologies, Inc. of Lafayette, Louisiana is spearheading a technical research program to advance the state of the art regarding under ice Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) survey operations. This program, funded by Shell, focuses on five areas of research, which include:
Form factors for the remote stations were developed following the evaluation of the potential hardware components and an examination of AUV mission requirements. Analysis was performed to determine how best to utilize the remote stations to gain the maximum utility of an AUV under the ice.
Two methods for facilitating the recovery of an AUV under ice were examined: 1) recovery by a deployed net and 2) recovery by an ROV. Net recovery research involved the construction of a full-scale prototype to deploy through a hole in the ice, extend, and capture the AUV. Research into ROV recovery under ice included developing a methodology to hold the AUV in place so it could be captured by the ROV. This involved the evaluation of several scenarios, which included securing the AUV to the sea floor with a drop anchor and making the AUV negatively buoyant with either a floodable ballast tank or by the release of syntactic foam.
Research into the integration of an upward looking multibeam involved the analysis of currently available systems. A comparative analysis of power consumption, size, weight, and software interfacing of the potential candidate systems was performed. C & C collaborated with Kongsberg Maritime to enhance the HUGIN AUV’s collision avoidance system for under ice navigation and for marine mammal detection.
This paper provides details on each of these five areas of research and details the scope, methodology, findings, and resulting recommendations.