Instrumentation & Measurement Magazine 23-2 - 105

Autonomous Underwater Vehicles:
Instrumentation and Measurements
Pedro José Bernalte Sánchez, Mayorkinos Papaelias, and Fausto Pedro García Márquez

O

ceans exploration and inspection are a great challenge for the industry nowadays. The underwater
instrumentation and measurements are improving due to the current technologies, or by development of
new ones, to cover the demand of the new industry offshore.
The Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV), a subcategory
of submarine, is used to perform subaquatic tasks. This vehicle provides advantages for underwater works, e.g., safety
and reliability inspections, but it also offers limitations for
sensors systems, monitoring and communications systems,
autonomous operational endurances, propulsion systems or
mapping designs, etc. The main scientific contributions of this
paper are: a review of the state of art in novel and main instrumentation and measurement systems embedded in AUVs;
an illustration of their future uses and development; and a
synthesis of the main and current navigation, mapping and
sampling technologies, together with different applications.

Introduction to Autonomous
Underwater Vehicles
The oceans cover more than two-thirds of the planet. Only the
equivalent of 15% of the oceans has been explored. The exploitation of the available ocean resources has been predominantly
associated with fishing, tourism, and offshore oil and gas production, with limited activity ongoing in mining or other
sectors with significant industrial and societal interest [1].
The sea is everything. It covers seven tenths of the terrestrial
globe. Its breath is pure and healthy. It is an immense desert,
where man is never lonely, for he feels life stirring on all sides.
The sea is only the embodiment of a supernatural and wonderful existence. It is nothing but love and emotion; it is the
Living Infinite. 	
-Jules Verne
The need appears in terms of submarine inspections in
order to fix any industry offshore. To explore submarine

environments presents many problems, e.g., the absence of
human ability to breathe underwater and the water column
pressure. There are many ways of conducting underwater inspections, from diving or snorkeling to the most sophisticated
devices such as submarines or underwater vehicles [2].
There are various types of underwater vehicles, mainly
divided in two categories: manned and unmanned systems.
They can also be grouped into a number of different subclasses, e.g., unmanned systems towed by a ship. An AUV is
a submerged system that contains its own power and is controlled by an onboard computer. Although these vehicles
could be called remotely operated vehicles (ROV), unmanned
underwater vehicles (UUV), submersible devices, or remotecontrolled submarines, AUVs are able to follow a preset
trajectory [3].
AUVs offer many advantages, e.g., they do not require a
human operator, leading to a reduction in operational costs
and increasing the safety for the workers. They operate in severe conditions and perform complex tasks [4]. The first AUV
was developed at the Applied Physics Laboratory, University
of Washington, USA [5]. The purpose was to study diffusion,
acoustic transmission and submarine sinks. AUVs were also
developed in the Soviet Union at the same time for similar
proposes [6]. In the 1960s, AUVs were developed by the U.S.
Navy to perform offshore rescue and salvage operations. Several industries have decided to use these devices for different
tasks, e.g., the petrochemical industry to improve the development of offshore oil fields [7]. In the 1980s, AUVs came into a
new era, being able to operate at high depths. Falling oil prices
and a global recession resulted in a stagnant period in terms of
AUV development in the mid-1980s. During the 1990s, there
was a renewed interest in AUVs in research universities, and
the first commercial prototypes appeared: e.g., OKPO 6000
by Daewoo (Fig. 1). This research was followed by more commercial AUVs in the 2000s [8]. Since then, these vehicles have
experienced a great development. There are new designs, for

This research was supported by the European Project H2020 under the Research Grants
H2020-MG-2018-2019-2020, ENDURUNS.
April 2020	

IEEE Instrumentation & Measurement Magazine	105
1094-6969/20/$25.00©2020IEEE



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