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General Information

This section provides Autonomous Underwater Vehicle Information of a general nature to the interested public.

What is an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle

The Development of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV):
A Brief Summary
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There are different types of underwater vehicles. One method of categorizing these vehicles is to identify them as members one of two classes of vehicles; manned and unmanned systems. We are all familiar with the manned systems. They can be described simply as falling into two sub-classes; military submarines and non-military submersibles such as those operated to support underwater investigations and assessment. The navies of the world utilize a number of different classes of submarines to conduct their missions.

On the other hand, Alvin (USA), Epaulard (France), Mir (Russia) and Shinkai 6500 (Japan) are all familiar names of small submarines that allow a few individuals to descend into the ocean to gather data and information from observations of the water column and ocean bottom.

Unmanned submersibles also fall in to a number of different sub-classes. The simplest and most easily described are those submersibles that are towed behind a ship. They act as platforms for various sensor suites attached to the vehicle frame. A second type of submersible system is called a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV). An ROV is a tethered vehicle. The tether supplies power and communication to the ROV and is controlled directly by a remote operator. A third type of unmanned submersible is an Unmanned Untethered Vehicle(UUV). This untethered vehicle contains its own onboard power, but is controlled by a remote operator via some type of a communications link. An AUV is an undersea system containing its own power and controlling itself while accomplishing a pre-defined task. A further distinction between the AUV and UUV is that the AUV requires no communication during its mission whereas the UUV requires some level of communication for it to complete its assigned mission.

Video provided by Sonardyne International

Exploring History

NARRATOR: Henry Stommel, an eminent oceanographer from Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute, envisioned the day that there would be “a thousand swimming robots” in the sea.  His vision has been partially realized with the technology in Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs), computer-controlled systems operating under the water.

When you compare vehicles, some of them look like torpedoes, some of them look like stingrays, some of them look like things with flippers on them.  So the breadth of that is pretty exciting, and what they can do.

They are designed with the intelligence to perform their tasks, identify problems, and adapt to different situations. AUVs can help protect our environment, as well as mitigate threats to our national security. And now, they are even being used to search for sunken history.

So, when you take AUV technology, you can see how the ships maneuvered, where the canon balls landed, where all the ship debris scattered as they blew up.  That gives you greater insight as to the decisions that were made on those significant days.

Autonomous Underwater Vehicles can be equipped with sophisticated sensing devices. These sensors can measure different ocean characteristics; others can provide images of objects under the water or even buried below the ocean bottom.  Since visibility under the sea is usually poor, sound – or SONAR – is used to create these acoustic pictures.

Side-Scan Sonar can produce very realistic imagery of objects and the seafloor. As the ping, or sound wave, travels underwater, it will reflect off objects such as sunken ships. The sonar distinguishes between these objects and creates dark or light regions that make up the astonishingly clear images we are able see today.

Since the 1990’s, the Office of Naval Research has been investing in AUVs and their advanced sensors to help search for mines. Now, marine archeologists are able to use this amazing technology and put it to use exploring sunken history.

Over 2,000 shipwrecks can be found in the waters off Rhode Island, which has more shipwrecks than any other state per square mile.  These shipwrecks include British frigates intentionally burned and sunk during the Revolutionary War in 1778 to avoid capture by a French fleet.

Four of these shipwreck sites, including the HMS Cerberus and HMS Lark, were explored using AUV technology.  Several new discoveries are being made with these advanced remote sensing technologies, as they help marine archeologists answer important questions about our history.

A benefit of AUV exploration, and one that is of critical importance in exploring sunken ships, is the non-invasive nature of the technology.  AUV missions will not disturb these delicate sites in any physical way.

Not only can AUVs help marine archeologists, but they are also being used in coastal surveys, fisheries research, and ocean exploration. Through these demonstrations, we can really grow the pull for this technology and basically increase access to the sea. Everything good will follow from that.

Perhaps a thousand swimming robots in the sea is closer than we think.


Design of Autonomous Underwater Vehicle  Download

There are concerns about the impact that global warming will have on our environment, and which will inevitably result in expanding deserts and rising water levels. While a lot of underwater vehicles are utilized, AUVs (Autonomous Underwater Vehicle) were considered and chosen, as the most suitable tool for conduction survey concerning these global environmental problems. AUVs can comprehensive survey because the vehicle does not have to be connected to the support vessel by tether cable. When such underwater vehicles are made, it is necessary to consider about the following things. 1) Seawater and Water Pressure Environment, 2) Sink, 3) There are no Gas or Battery Charge Stations, 4) Global Positioning System cannot use, 5) Radio waves cannot use. In the paper, outline of above and how deal about it are explained.

AUVSI AUV Team Competition Guides

The Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International (AUVSI) and the Office of Naval Research (ONR) sponsored the development of these documents. They are intended for students who are considering participation in the annual AUVSI/ONR Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) competition. The documents provide an overview of engineering and organizational considerations for designing, building, and operating a vehicle for this event. 

Development of an underwater system requires knowledge of multiple engineering disciplines, as well as good organizational and execution skills. These documents provide a brief overview of these topics to acquaint readers with the subjects, knowledge, and skills important to competitive teams. The documents also include practical tips and advice based on experience developing and operating AUVs. The authors include past AUV competition participants who have shared their experience.

Download Introduction and Concept Overview    
Download Engineering Primer