Autosub6000 being prepared for hydrothermal
vent hunting in the Caribbean sea.
The vehicle can be fitted with a variety of
different sensors depending on requirements.
The Autosub6000 is a robotic submarine and can operate independently from the ship without any oversight, tether or human occupant.

This means that after it has been launched from the ship the Autosub’s computers take the vehicle to its operating depth, carry out its mission and then bring it back to meet with the ship. While Autosub is underwater the expedition members can eat, sleep and do other work while it collects their data.

It is made of a set of pressure tolerant systems put together on a chassis that allows water to flood areas where water does not cause any problems for the electronics and other systems. This is much more efficient than making the entire vehicle into a single large pressure tolerant capsule.

For our project, the scientist and Autosub team designed a new camera system with two cameras, one that sees in front of the vehicle and one that sees just below the vehicle in a similar way to aerial photography, but much closer. The first, forward looking, camera will be able to see fish before they are likely to be frightened by the oncoming sub. The second, downward looking, camera will allow us to take individual photographs of the seafloor and stitch them together into long strips about 2 m wide, but up to 10 km or more in length.

Find out more about Autosubs here.

The individual photographs will be similar to those shown below from previous work undertaken using this system on the abyssal plain and the blog of the expedition members.

The Autosub range of AUVs are an important part of the marine scientist’s toolkit and the vehicles are developed and provided to the UK Marine Science community by the Marine Autonomous and Robotic Systems group (MARS) at the NOC. MARS also acts as a service facility for the UK, operating a fleet of robotic vehicles carrying sensors for a whole range of applications from physics to biogeochemistry and ecology.