In 2001, ISE began development of a modular AUV known as Explorer. This design is based on the successful ARCS AUV design, which had a 22 year operating life. The first of the Explorer vehicles was delivered to the French research agency, IFREMER, in February 2004. In 2004, vehicles were also ordered by the University of Southern Mississippi and the Memorial University of Newfoundland. In 2005, IFREMER ordered a 2nd vehicle and the University of Bremen placed an order for a 5000 m Explorer AUV in March 2006. The experience in the marine science setting has been excellent with high availability and low operating costs.
The modularity of the Explorer AUV is optimized for longevity and adaptation to new requirements. The cylindrical pressure hull and the wet payload fairing are modular and can be lengthened or shortened. Equipment bays in the dry, aluminium pressure hull can accept 19” racks without repackaging. The 69 cm diameter wet payload bays can accommodate a wide range of side scan sonars, multi-beam echo sounders as well as the range of water column instrumentation needed. Access to vehicle control software is provided to permit the user to undertake new equipment integration. Recorded data is offloaded through a high speed Ethernet port on the hull. A separate port is provided for charging.
A high quality Inertial Navigation System aided by a Doppler Velocity Log is provided to locate the seabed data. Positioning is with GPS and USBL. To obtain a GPS fix in sea state, the vehicle has an optional telescoping mast which houses the GPS antenna, other antennae and the strobe. At full extent, the mast is 1.1 meter above the hull. It automatically retracts on diving.