The ReefScan CoralAUV is a reliable, cost-effective autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) that can navigate physically intricate environments exposed to strong, complex currents.   

While there are already some AUVs that have been deployed in reef environments, they tend to be slow, expensive, complex to support, and unable to undertake large-scale mapping without human intervention.  

Our prototype ReefScan CoralAUV, developed in partnership with Queensland University of Technology, has advanced navigational and obstacle avoidance sensors allowing it to complete georeferenced and repeatable surveys with a high degree of accuracy, while equipped with scientific-grade cameras, hyperspectral sensors and other instrumentation.   



We are developing advanced perception and artificial intelligence capabilities for the CoralAUV to allow it to automatically detect and follow reef contours and slopes. Some of these capabilities are highly novel and would represent a world first if we can achieve them. 

Traditional coral reef monitoring relies on human observers and is:  

  • limited to diver or snorkeller depth (30m for diving, 10-15m for snorkelling compared with 100m or more for a robot) 

  • labour- and time-intensive, limiting the area that can be covered  

  • typically only operational during good weather conditions, in areas of relatively sheltered water and mostly during daylight hours 

  • limited to areas that are safe for diving or snorkelling, normally excluding off-shore and very turbid areas, as well as areas with marine pests such as jellyfish, sharks and crocodiles  

  • requiring extensive training of personnel including regular between-observer calibrations.  

ReefScan CoralAUV is a more systematic monitoring tool than traditional methods and will be used to meet functional and operational requirements for reef, benthic and fish biodiversity monitoring programs. 

Navigation sensors allow CoralAUV to undertake a highly accurate path and repeat the same mission again in the future. This provides us with a 3D ‘digital twin’ of areas of the reef and allows for year-on-year tracking to inform reef management and reef restoration. 

The CoralAUV’s high-definition camera can link navigation information to each image so we know exactly where it is taken. It can also include data from other sensors measuring properties such as temperature and water quality. 

Final testing of the CoralAUV prototype is now underway.

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 hazardous areas for divers.

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.  

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.  

We have used gliders to map flood plumes during the monsoon season, survey the seafloor in 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.

 Further information: