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Office of Coast Survey: Autonomous Underwater Vehicles

Office of Coast Survey: Remotely Operated Vehicles

NOAA Ocean Explorer: What are AUVs?

An AUV operates independently from the ship and has no connecting cables whereas ROVs are connected to an operator on the ship.

image of autonomous underwater vehicle being deployed

Coast Survey's Emergency Response AUV Team uses AUVs to detect and map submerged wrecks, rocks, and obstructions that pose a hazard to navigation.

AUV stands for autonomous underwater vehicle and is commonly known as unmanned underwater vehicle. AUVs can be used for underwater survey missions such as detecting and mapping submerged wrecks, rocks, and obstructions that can be a hazard to navigation for commercial and recreational vessels.

An AUV conducts its survey mission without operator intervention. When a mission is complete, the AUV will return to a pre-programmed location where the data can be downloaded and processed.

image of remotely operated vehicle next to water

Coast Survey has used ROVs with video cameras, to identify or classify objects detected by sonar when diver safety was in question or divers were not available.

A remotely operated vehicle (ROV) is an unoccupied underwater robot that is connected to a ship by a series of cables. These cables transmit command and control signals between the operator and the ROV, allowing remote navigation of the vehicle. An ROV may include a video camera, lights, sonar systems, and an articulating arm. The articulating arm is used for retrieving small objects, cutting lines, or attaching lifting hooks to larger objects.

While there are many uses for ROVs, some of the most common hydrographic applications include object identification (for submerged navigation hazards) and vessel hull inspections. An ROV is not intended to be a replacement for hydrographic diver investigations, but could serve as a substitute if divers are not available or diver safety is in question.