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Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV)

Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV), also known as unmanned underwater vehicles, can be used to perform underwater survey missions such as detecting and mapping submerged wrecks, rocks, and obstructions that pose a hazard to navigation for commercial and recreational vessels. The AUV conducts its survey mission without operator intervention. When a mission is complete, the AUV will return to a pre-programmed location and the data collected can be downloaded and processed in the same way as data collected by shipboard systems.

AUVs can be equipped with a wide variety of oceanographic sensors or sonar systems. NOAA’s hydrographic survey AUVs are typically equipped with side scan sonar, Conductivity-Temperature-Depth (CTD) sensors, GPS-aided Inertial Navigation Systems (INS), and an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP).

Currently, NOAA’s Coast Survey Development Lab is evaluating the use of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUV) as tools for hydrographic surveying in support of NOAA’s nautical charting mission. The use of AUVs, in collaboration with NOAA’s manned survey fleet, could greatly increase survey efficiency. Additionally, AUVs could be used for marine incident response and port security surveys due to their small size and flexible deployment options.

*What’s the difference between an AUV and a Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV)?
AUVs operate independently of the ship and have no connecting cables.


Three crewmembers deploying AUV off the side of BAY HYDROGRAPHER.  Software for controlling AUV mission planning. 

 Deploying AUV off the side of the BAY HYDROGRAPHER

 Software that enables mission planning


 Three men on pier holding AUV with BAY HYDROGRAPHER tied up in background. AUV sitting on pier in foreground with BAY HYDROGRAPHER in the background tied up to pier. 

 The AUV Team

 AUV and BAY HYDROGRAPHER in Chesapeake Bay

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