What is Autosub?
Autosub is an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV). AUVs are unmanned and untethered submersibles that are programmed to carry out missions without communication from the surface. They also carry their own power supply in the form of batteries. In this respect they are distinct from Remote Operated Vehicles (ROVs) that are remote-controlled and powered from a surface ship via a tether.
One advantage of AUVs is that they can survey remote environments that are inaccessible to ROVs and other submersibles. Autosub can collect physical, chemical, biological and geophysical data from the ocean surface to the seabed using a suite of sensors and sampling devices tailored to individual mission requirements.
AUVs such as Autosub are playing an increasing role in oceanography. As "underwater satellites", AUVs can monitor the ocean over a wide scale at a cost that cannot be matched by traditional research ships. Autosub technology has also been licenced to Halliburton Subsea for use in the oil, gas and subsea cable markets. The vehicle has been awarded Millenium Product status by the UK Design Council and has been displayed in the Wellcome Wing of the Science Museum in London.
The design concept of Autosub began in 1988 as a community project of the UK Natural Environment Research Council to develop future technnology for marine science. Extensive system development took place over 5 years and the first complete vehicle was built between October 1995 and May 1996. Autosub undertook its first autonomous mission in July 1996.
Prior to the Autosub Under Ice programme, Autosub carried out more than 300 missions of increasing complexity covering over 2000 kilometres. These demonstrated the capability for unescorted missions, routine launch and recovery in Force 6 conditions, sensor or data driven path determination and terrain following. As part of the Autosub Science Missions thematic programme, the vehicle was deployed on projects including including herring stock assessment in the North Sea, mapping manganese distributions in Scottish sea lochs and missions beneath Antarctic sea ice.
Autosub home pages (Ocean Engineering Division, Southampton Oceanography Centre)
Nature feature about AUVs (subscription required)
Clarke T (2003). Nature 421: 468-470
Millard NW et al. (1998). Underwater Technology 23: 7-17
McPhail SD & Pebody M (1998). Underwater Technology 23: 19-30
Stevenson P et al. (1998). Underwater Technology 23: 31-41
Return to AUI home page