SUT/ECOR Polar AUV Guide – a resource for users
AUVs have been in development for over 35 years, and their use
as a science tool has become commonplace. In the past 20 years, a
number of operations have been undertaken in ice-covered waters.
Despite this length of experience, often the logistics and support of Polar AUV operations are more complex than for those conducted in open water. While the actual operation of the vehicle may be little different than in open water, the manner in which the mission is planned and executed can vary substantially to reflect the reality of the vehicle travelling beneath an ice covered surface. Finally there is a perception that the risk of losing a vehicle is higher than in open water.
These and other issues pertaining to Polar and under-ice operations of AUVs were discussed at a 3 day symposium of AUV users organized by the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton, UK in March 2006. One of the conclusions of that symposium was that a Best Practices Guide be developed to recommend and document the manner in which under-ice operations could be carried out effectively.
At that time, the ECOR Specialist Panel on Underwater Vehicles took on
the task of preparing a Best Practices document. A two day working
session was hosted by IFREMER at its Mediterranean facility in La
Seyne-sur-Mer in September 2006. At this workshop, both scientific
users of AUVs (some with under-ice experience) and AUV developers
discussed the manner in which the Best Practices Guide should be
Given the limited experience with AUVs in the polar environment at that time, the consensus was that the site should be evolutionary. It was also
agreed the site should contain a historical account of previous AUV
missions in polar regions as well as articles and other documents that provide information and experience on Arctic and Antarctic operations.
The original ECOR Polar AUV Best Practice site was in place by spring 2007
and updated for some years but became unavailable when ECOR was absorbed into the Society for Underwater Technology (SUT). This new site under the auspices of the SUT contains the original and updated material gathered by ECOR and, over time, will add new summaries of Polar AUV operations.
Disclaimer: The SUT Panel on Underwater Robotics stresses that the practices outlined in this guide simply reflect the observations and advice of those who have operated vehicles in Polar Regions, and that it cannot bear responsibility for the actual conduct or outcome of any polar mission.