First AUV deployed from new polar ship
An Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) was deployed from the RRS Sir David Attenborough (SDA) for the first time last week.
The Gavia Offshore Surveyor, named Freya, was deployed from the ship’s workboat Erebus as part of the latest phase of trials. The AUV is being tested to prepare it for mapping the seabed around Greenland as part of the ship’s first Arctic science research in 2024. The Gavia, which was previously deployed from RRS James Clark Ross, can navigate up to depths of 500m, and is used to map the seafloor, as well as collecting information about the ocean.
AUVs are robot submarines, used to explore the world’s oceans without direct control from the ship. They usually travel along a pre-programmed path to survey locations that would otherwise be impossible to reach, such as under the ice and in front of calving glaciers. RRS Sir David Attenborough is designed to act as a central platform for deploying and operating a range of state-of-the-art autonomous and remotely operated vehicles (ROVs) in the polar regions. By sending submersibles to collect data, the ship can also reduce its carbon emissions.
Trialling with the Gavia is also giving researchers an opportunity to put Erebus, the SDA’s 10m workboat, through its paces. The boat is also undergoing trials, with the team testing new and upgraded equipment and deploying instruments, such as Gavia, over the side of the boat. Scientists will use Erebus to carry out research in shallow, inshore waters where the SDA is too large to go.
Gavia is part of the UK robotic fleet which is managed by the Scottish Association for Marine Science (SAMS), on behalf of the Natural Environment Research Council.
Professor John Howe, a marine geologist at SAMS, says:
“Robots are helping to transform our understanding of the oceans and its such an honour to be involved in the first AUV deployment from this iconic ship! This particular AUV is going to play a key role in the ship’s first Arctic science mission in 2024 where it will help us understand how our warming oceans are affecting Greenland’s glaciers.”
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