Autosub Science Missions

Autosub onboard RRS James Clark Ross
Autosub onboard RRS James Clark Ross ©

The aim of the Autosub Science Missions was to demonstrate the usefulness of Autosub, an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV). Six Science Missions were designed to measure interdisciplinary data which could not be obtained by research ships.

What is Autosub?

Autosub is a robotic vehicle designed to carry a variety of inter-changeable scientific instruments. It therefore has the ability to sample and record multiple data sets from different oceanographic disciplines. It is a versatile vehicle able to carry out pre-programmed missions, sampling data from the seabed to the surface of the ocean. Due to its autonomous nature, it also has the ability to venture into previously inaccessible regions of the oceans such as those covered by ice.

Autosub was developed by the Ocean Engineering Division (OED) at the Southampton Oceanography Centre (SOC), now the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton (NOCS) with funding from the Natural Environment Research Council (NERC).

Who ran the project?

The project was coordinated by Dr Steve Hall of the Southampton Oceanography Centre in collaboration with the Autosub technical team and the principle investigators of the six Science Missions. The project was a NERC Thematic Programme that ran from 1999 to 2001.

BODC was responsible for archiving all data from the individual Autosub missions and  the data collected during the eight campaign cruises.

The Science Missions

Autosub undertook six Science Missions over eight campaigns, and performed over 70 individual missions, as well as numerous trials for instrument development and navigation testing.

The Science Missions consisted of

  1. Flow over sills in the Strait of Sicily
    Smeed, Dr D A and Stansfield, Dr K
  2. Dissolved and particulate manganese and oxygen in the water column of the upper basins of two hypoxic sea lochs
    Overnell, Dr J, Black, Dr K D, Statham, Dr P and German, Dr C
  3. Under sea-ice and pelagic surveys
    Brierley, Dr A S, Fernandes, Dr P G and Brandon, Dr M A
  4. Submersible single cell and particle analysis
    Cunningham, Dr A, Burkill, Dr P A and Tarran, Dr G
  5. Spatial variability of bottom turbulence over a sandbank
    Collins, Prof. M B, Voulgaris, Dr G, Trowbridge, Dr J and Terray, Dr E
  6. Sonar and turbulence studies of the upper ocean
    Thorpe, Prof. S A and Osborn, Prof. T

Instruments carried by Autosub

Autosub was equipped with standard science sensors including

  • Dual Sea-Bird CTDs with an oxygen electrode sensor; beam transmissometer; fluorometer; downwelling irradiance (PAR) sensor
  • Dual RDI 300 kHz ADCPs (current profiles, bottom track velocity,‘top-track’ velocity)
  • Paroscientific Digiquartz pressure sensor
  • Simrad EK500 2-frequency sonar

In addition, Autosub carried special sensors for the individual Sciences Missions. These include

  • Self recording Simrad EK500 2-frequency sonar
  • Turbulence and microstructure probes
  • Self-recording sea-surface sidescan sonar
  • Bubble resonator
  • Dissolved manganese in situ analyser
  • Dissolved methane sensor
  • Flow cytometer
  • High frequency incoherent and coherent Doppler sensors

Data management goal

Our main goal was to produce a public relations CDROM product to illustrate the capabilities of Autosub and to archive the data for comparative studies in years to come.

Autosub Science Mission data set

The data management activities resulted in the release of a CDROM product, which describes the development and trials of Autosub; provides a brief overview of the science undertaken during the Science Missions studies; and presents the navigation, engineering and Autosub CTD data for each mission Autosub undertook.

Autosub Science Missions