Autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) are unmanned submersibles that can be preprogrammed to navigate in three dimensions under water. The technological advances required for reliable deployment, mission control, performance, and recovery of AUVs have developed considerably over the past 10 years. Currently, there are several vehicles operating successfully in the offshore industries as well as in the applied and academic oceanographic sciences. This article reviews the application of AUVs to fisheries- and plankton-acoustics research. Specifications of the main AUVs currently in operation are given. Compared to traditional platforms for acoustic instruments, AUVs can sample previously impenetrable environments such as the sea surface, the deep sea, and under-sea ice. Furthermore, AUVs are typically small, quiet, and have the potential to operate at low cost and be unconstrained by the vagaries of weather. Examples of how these traits may be utilized in fisheries-acoustics science are given with reference to previous work in the North Sea and Southern Ocean and to potential future applications. Concurrent advances in multi-beam sonar technology and species identification, using multi-frequency and broadband sonars, will further enhance the utility of AUVs for fisheries acoustics. However, before many of the more prospective applications can be accomplished, advances in power-source technology are required to increase the range of operation. The paper ends by considering developments that may turn AUVs from objects sometimes perceived as science fiction into instruments used routinely to gather scientific facts. Crown Copyright (C) 2003 Published by Elsevier Science Ltd on behalf of International Council for the Exploration of the Sea. All rights reserved.
- autonomous underwater vehicles
- power sources
- species identification
- Antartic krill
- orange roughy