While autonomous underwater vessels (AVs) do make the process of collecting ocean data easier, launching things can still be cumbersome. That’s why scientists have developed a new system that uses unmanned surface boats to deploy autonomous underwater vessels. Typically, automatic underwater vessels are launched from a large vessel. This means that the ship must burn fuel and increase other costs as it sails towards the deployment point. In addition, there is always a risk of encountering severe weather conditions or enemy (e.g. pirates or foreign armed forces).
In addition, people can launch underwater robots from the shore. Logically, this would be more complicated, and the submersible would end up wasting most of the battery power.
With these limitations in mind, a team at the University of East Anglia in the UK recently modified an existing unmanned surface vehicle, AutoNaut, so that it can transport and then deploy an existing AUV called Seaglider. The two-part system is named Caravela.
Caravela can be easily launched from shore. It then moves on to the AUV deployment site, driven by the power of the waves alone. AutoNaut combines wave foil technology to make it possible, in which front and rear elastic foils mounted on ships collect energy from the rise and fall of waves and convert them directly into propulsion.
During this process, AutoNaut’s solar sensors collect and transmit data such as air pressure, air temperature, humidity, wind speed and sea surface temperature. Once the ship’s GPS is detected and reached its destination, seaglider is automatically released so that the AUV can embark on its own underwater data collection adventure – the submersible can drop to a depth of 1,000 meters (3,281 feet) and travel for months at a time, covering thousands of kilometers.
Researchers plan to conduct on-site tests on Caravela later this month, when it will be used off the coast of Barbados to study how ocean temperatures affect the upper air layer and how wind and sunlight affect the sea surface.
Professor Karen Heywood, of the University of East Anglia, who first came up with the concept, said: “It is now too dangerous to send Seaglider into the middle of the basin without the need for a boat. This means that we can stock the battery for science, so it has a longer life. It also allows us to more accurately determine when to release Seaglider, for example, before an outbreak of algae tides or extreme weather events. “