Scientific Research

While the scientific community uses AUVs for a plethora of applications such as oceanography, long-duration ocean observing, polar research, water sampling, fishery studies and habitat research, academics are also using these platforms to develop and field new payloads and to improve the state of AUV technology itself through enhanced vehicle autonomy.

Payload Development 

Advancements in payload and sensor technology for a variety of AUV applications are ongoing and are often developed in academia for specific research areas. Bluefin AUVs can serve as payload testbeds so developers can validate payload and sensor performance in the field. Our systems are ideal for this application for a number of reasons. First, payload sections are modular, allowing the user to work on a payload without dedicating a vehicle for the entire development period. Organizations can share assets so multiple research goals can be achieved.

Second, the AUVs are intentionally designed with a Standard Payload Interface allowing the payload computer(s), whether provided directly by Bluefin or by the customer, to easily communicate with the main vehicle computer (MVC). The Standard Payload Interface allows the vehicle to accept a large range of sensors without alteration to the core systems. As a result, the AUV configuration can change as your objectives change, providing immense flexibility. For more information, check out the Autonomy and Behaviors page.

Lastly, Bluefin engineers are available to assist with the integration of a payload and our marine operations team can help operate the system during at-sea testing. Having access to our experts to handle these tasks means you can focus on the science, not the system.

Bluefin products that address this application include:

Vehicle Autonomy 

Vehicle autonomy is a popular area of AUV research. In the past, AUVs were relatively simple machines that could be programmed to hold a certain heading at a given depth while monitoring their own health. This ability, however simple, proved extremely useful, allowing the vehicle to survey large tracts of seafloor and perform mine countermeasure (MCM) missions. Today, researchers are building on this initial success and developing new types of onboard autonomy for AUVs.

Bluefin AUVs are ideal platforms for this type of research because they include a Standard Payload Interface that can interface with third-party autonomy capabilities. During the GLINT09 sea trials for example, a multi-vehicle autonomous anti-submarine warfare (ASW) system comprised of AUVs and gliders was used to detect, classify, localize, and track adversarial vehicles on its own. Central to this work were the MOOS and IvP open-source tools and the backseat driver paradigm, which allowed novel behaviors to be written without explicit knowledge of the core vehicle systems.

Many other areas of autonomy research are expected to flourish in the near future. One example is automated marine mammal tracking, where AUVs will track marine mammal populations and provide biologists with the data necessary to assess the impact of Navy sonar tests. Alternatively, AUVs could track individual animals and provide insight into previously unknown aspects of their behavior.

Supported by tools like MOOS, IvP and the backseat driver, future research in autonomy is expected to produce enhancements in situational awareness, self-monitoring, planning, fault recovery, and decision-making, which will push AUV applications in new directions. Armed with these tools, researchers will find new and creative uses for AUVs in the coming decades, and Bluefin vehicles will be there to support these advances.

For more information, check out the Autonomy and Behaviors page.

Bluefin products that address this application: