Evolution of Technology
Since the late nineties, Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) numbers have grown steadily, emerging from university laboratories to establish themselves as credible platforms for a myriad of underwater missions. Today many of the world’s leading navies operate AUVs in support of salvage, hydrographic, oceanographic and mine counter-measures (MCM). In the commercial sector, they are the preferred choice when conducting subsea surveys at thousands of metres of depth and, are also commonly used to survey in very shallow waters.
Taking on the challenge
As the interest in these platforms has grown, so has the demand to help them solve new challenges ranging from long endurance missions to working collaboratively with other AUVs and even with other systems or humans. Independently of which task AUVs face, they must all be able to work out their position, navigate, sense the environment and communicate. This is easier said than done. In water electromagnetic waves dissipate quickly and AUVs must use other means to help carry out many of those tasks. Acoustics is the preferred choice to position and communicate as sound travels long distances in water, but laser technology plays a big part also. Ultimately the success of any AUV is determined by how effectively and accurately it can leverage the technology at its disposal.