AUVs are a vital tool for the oceanographic community, providing data on time and spatial scales that were previously inaccessible to the researcher. Augmented by recent advances in compact, low-power sensors, AUVs benefit the chemical, physical, biological, and operational oceanography communities. These platforms collect data at a specified location in three dimensions with a significant reduction in cost compared to a permanent buoy or research vessel. AUVs operate for a few hours to several months and go where fixed instruments cannot. AUVs work 24 hours a day, seven days a week in adverse conditions that prevent data collection through traditional observation methods.
AUVs carry sensors such as mulitbeam echosounders, side scan sonars and sub-bottom profilers with high navigational accuracy to produce superior datasets for the operational oceanographer. Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers used with conductivity-temperature-depth sensors and turbidity meters provide geo-located data to the physical oceanographer. Instruments that measure dissolved oxygen, colored dissolved organic material, optical backscattering, transmissometry, and fluorometry assist the biological oceanographer in organic material studies from the surface to thousands of meters below. Recent developments in compact, pressure-tolerant mass spectroscopy allow the chemical oceanographer to get precise measurements of water content rather than relying on collecting water samples from rosette casts. AUVs are effective, versatile tools for the oceanographic community.