The invention of autonomous underwater vehicles is one of the major breakthroughs in underwater communication systems. Autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) are vessels that travel underwater without the need of an operator. They are part of a group of undersea systems known as unmanned underwater vehicles. However, unlike autonomous underwater vehicles; other unmanned underwater vehicles, are usually controlled by a pilot from the surface through an umbilical or with a remote control. Such vehicles are called remotely operated underwater vehicles (ROV).
The first AUV was invented in 1957; in the University of Washington by Bob Francois, Stan Murphy, & Terry Ewart. The vessel created was called(SPURV) or “Special Purpose Underwater Research Vehicle” and was deployed for study purposes. The vessel was used to study acoustic transmission, diffusion and submarine wake. In the following years, more sophisticated autonomous underwater vehicles were created.
As a result of the advancement in technology, the uses of AUVs have increasingly been expanded; and they are now been used for more complicated missions. The structure and reliability of AUVs have made them be deployed by the military, for commercial purposes and research. Today, AUVs are used for data collection, survey, and mapping
Benefits Of AUVs
- Stability: The design of autonomous underwater vehicles make it very stable and agile. AUV is designed like a torpedo, with a propulsion system consisting of one or two thrusters. It also has control surfaces which are in charge of controlling the movement of the vehicle. It is structured with a streamlined fairing which reduces hydrodynamic drag; and a pressure haul which houses power electronics.
- Low Deployment Cost: Autonomous underwater vehicles do not need a bulky, and complex support system. They carry their own energy source, and as such do not need external power. The absence of external control also reduces the operational cost of employing a human operator.
- Improved Data Quality: Unlike other unmanned vehicles such as ROVs, AUVs work without control from an operator. This, therefore, makes it faster, increasing its data-to-signal ratio. This makes surveys faster and more accurate.
- Excellent Navigation Algorithms: AUVs are programmed with instructions before embarking on any mission. The geographical positions to be followed are predetermined; navigation requirements for following these positions are set; measures to bypass obstacles and also procedures for payload device operation are also programmed into the vehicle. This ensures a smooth and swift operation. It also uses its sensors to navigate rough terrains underwater. In addition to its excellent navigation, AUVs can also be programmed with measures to undertake should any equipment breaks down
All of these benefits have made the application of autonomous underwater vehicles, a safe option for many. It is deployed in the oil and gas industry to make maps of the seafloor. The military also uses it for inspection and identification. This has aided commerce and security in many nations. Although it comes with its own challenges, the continued advancement in its technology means that the structure of AUVs can only get better.