Search and Salvage

Search and salvage operations are conducted to find and recover items of high-value, items that can cause environmental damage or hazards to navigation, items of historical interest, or items that provide forensic data. These operations consist of a number of phases and require a variety of tools.

Initially, area searches locate the recovery site. Ship-based systems such as ROVs and towed systems as well as divers are limited in what they can accomplish in some environments. AUVs offer the capability to conduct long-endurance, wide-area searches with a high degree of navigational accuracy. In addition, AUVs require minimal operator intervention, which reduces operator fatigue. AUVs are search asset multipliers when employed in conjunction with or in lieu of surface vessels, decreasing search time and increasing the probability of location of submerged targets.

Once the recovery site is identified, AUVs continue to play an important role in the salvage operations. AUVs can deploy objects, use a wide range of sensors to aid in or confirm detection and location, and conduct sonar operations where turbidity would hamper camera systems, without the constraint of a tether. These systems can gather valuable data such as bathymetry, acoustic and video imagery, and the presence of chemical agents; data critical to ensuring that salvors have sufficient information to plan a successful recovery. This data aids planning as to what tools should be employed, how the target should be approached, and what obstacles should be avoided. Overall, AUVs are flexible tools that address the unique challenges of search and salvage operations.

Bluefin products that address this application include:

Article: Use of AUV for Deepwater Shipwreck Search