Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs)

Like Remotely Operated Vehicles, AUVs are useful unmanned exploration vessels capable of going deeper, for longer, and at less cost and effort than manned submersibles. They have the added benefit of being able to act and move on their own and collect samples without constant direct input from a surface-based control station. AUVs can operate alone or in coordinated fleets. A newer type of AUV, the glider, can change buoyancy, rising and falling and gaining its forward propulsion by hydrodynamically contoured wings.  Gliders collect and transmit data as they undulate through the ocean.  Learn more from AUV labs.

An exploded drawing of the large AUV, the AUTOSUB, showing some of the instrumentation inside. (Biogeography of Deep-Water Chemosynthetic Ecosystems Project - ChEss)

The AUV HUGIN being fitted with instruments prior to launch during a MAR-ECO research cruise. (Michael Palmgren, Klockargaarden film AB)

The streamline shape of an AUV is apparent in this image of the AUTOSUB being recovered at the end of research. (Southampton Oceanography Centre)


Gliders can be deployed for periods of up to 5 years, with a range of up to 40,000 km. Communications are by RF modem, Iridium satellite, or ARGOS uplink. (Slocum glider, courtesy of Teledyne Webb)