Autonomous underwater vehicles

AIMS Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) developments

AIMS works extensively in shallow, coral reef environments, often in highly turbulent waters that challenge the navigation capabilities of currently available autonomous underwater vehicles. Many of these areas are hazardous to divers, so alternative techniques are needed to collect detailed imagery for coral reef health assessments. 

AIMS is investigating options to fulfil this capability gap, including exploring the development of an agile coral reef autonomous underwater vehicle. Off-shore prototype vehicle testing has been conducted to refine algorithms, and collaborations with partners are ongoing.

AIMS remotely operated vehicles

AIMS uses a variety of remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) to conduct reef health assessments. These include ROVs for deeper water surveys and hull inspections from larger research vessels, and smaller ROVs in shallower water from smaller or auxiliary vessels. Both types of vehicles are being tested and modified for use as marine research platforms in diver hazardous areas.

A number of ROV systems are being trialled and modified to provide a cost-effective method of monitoring coral health that does not compromise diver safety.

Working with Australia’s Integrated Marine Observing System

AIMS is one of the largest facility operators for Australia’s Integrated Marine Observing System (IMOS). Part of this role involves working with two of the IMOS autonomous vehicle facilities - the Ocean Glider Facility and the AUV Facility - to conduct surveys on the Great Barrier Reef and the North-West Shelf. These autonomous vehicles can follow a predefined ocean path, profiling the water column and collecting data for weeks to months.

Gliders are particularly useful for places or periods when it is too rough to use normal vessels, or in remote locations where it is expensive to run conventional ship surveys. AIMS has used gliders to map flood plumes during the monsoon season, survey the seafloor in great detail and collect ocean data throughout the water column in remote areas such as the far northern reef and the Coral Sea. Sea-glider movement can be tracked live.

A glider pilot from CSIRO prepares to deploy a Slocum seaglider on the Great Barrier Reef. AIMS works closely with IMOS facilities to observe remote and challenging ocean environments with AUVs. Image: J. Benthuysen


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