Autonomous vehicles are the future of marine science. The ability to explore the oceans and collect data via unmanned, untethered robotic vehicles has greatly increased our scope of the oceans. New and innovative autonomous vehicles being developed at the NOC are pushing the limits on how we can explore our oceans, with capabilities allowing us to reach new depths, travel under ice, take readings in remote areas and collect data during high sea states.
Autonomous vehicles can be deployed and remain at sea for several months, recording data and then transmitting the data back to shore when they surface. With so many questions about the physical, chemical and biological processes in our oceans, autonomous vehicles could provide the answers we are looking for. Current technology developments undertaken by the NOC are detailed below.
In Development - Autosub6000 Mk2
The NOC is working on the development of a new Autosub to add to the fleet, providing the UK science community with a next generation: ship-launched, high power, deep-diving Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV).
The vehicle will be 5.5m long and weigh nearly two tonnes, designed so that it can be operated from the Royal Research Ships RRS James Cook and RRS Discovery.
In Development - ecoSUB, small, low-cost AUV’s
In Development - Autosub Long Range 1500
Autosub Long Range 1500 (ALR 1500) is the 1500m depth-rated version of the Autosub Long Range AUV. The original ALR (ALR-6000) is an AUV capable of deployments of thousands of kilometres and lasting several months (depending upon sensor power drain and speed) with a maximum depth excursion of 6000m. For many application areas, such as measurements in shallow water, the 6000m depth rating of the original ALR is not required, as measurements are concentrated in the upper water column. This gives an opportunity to design and manufacture a new version of the ALR with a shallower depth-rated pressure vessel. This lower depth-rated pressure vessel will be designed to deliver a larger buoyancy and dry space, which can accommodate a battery pack 2.5 times larger than the ALR-6000. This larger battery will enable enough power for deployments with longer ranges, higher speeds, and the fitting of more power-hungry sensors or navigation systems. This new Autosub will potentially be a much more capable AUV system for deployments of less than 1500m depth.
In Development - BRIDGES deep glider project
The NOC, together with 19 public and private partners from scientific institutions, industries and innovative SMEs from nine countries have received €8 million funding from the European Union Horizon2020 programme to work on the development of two new deep-sea autonomous gliders.
The two ground-breaking Ultra(Deep) EXPLORER gliders with be adapted to operate at 2400m (deep) and 5000m (ultra deep) and will have new and enhanced sensing capabilities as well as providing unique and exciting opportunities for the monitoring of oceanographic features in the deep sea.