Offshore survey applications include mapping and development of offshore resources such as minerals, oil, and gas. Before any subsea work can begin, the area must be surveyed to map the bathymetry and composition of the seafloor, detect the presence of resources, and ensure that there are no impediments to development. Historically, towed systems performed these tasks. However, towed systems require a connection to a surface vessel, which limits their ability to maintain a constant altitude and requires cumbersome maneuvers between tracklines.
AUVs collect data more efficiently than towed systems. Without the constraints of a tether, AUVs can maneuver and navigate more precisely, enabling them to run accurate tracklines and follow bottom contours. This reduces the number of tracklines required to completely survey a designated area. In addition, AUVs can quickly perform very tight turns, which increase the ratio of survey time to the time required to position the system for the next trackline, ultimately enabling faster data collection.
Another advantage of AUVs is the increased quality of the collected data. Bluefin AUVs in particular are very stable platforms which improves sonar resolution and image quality. In addition, their accurate navigation allows the sensors to collect data at a constant altitude above the seafloor, resulting in much greater image consistency.