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The University of Southampton
EngineeringPostgraduate study


Autosub is a family of Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) developed at the National Oceanography Centre, Southampton. The first vehicle (Autosub1) was awarded Millennium Product status by the UK Design Council and was displayed in the Wellcome Wing of the Science Museum in London.

The design concept of Autosub began in 1988 as a community project of the UK Natural Environment Research Council to develop future technology for marine science. Extensive system development took place over 5 years and the first complete vehicle was built between October 1995 and May 1996. Autosub undertook its first autonomous mission in July 1996.

Autosub design

As part of the Autosub Science Missions thematic programme, the vehicle was deployed on projects including herring stock assessment in the North Sea, mapping manganese distributions in Scottish sea lochs and missions beneath Antarctic sea ice. Autosub carried out more than 300 missions of increasing complexity covering over 2000 kilometres. These demonstrated the capability for unescorted missions, routine launch and recovery in Force 6 conditions, sensor or data driven path determination and terrain following. Subsequently Autosub2 contributed to the Autosub Under Ice programme, with four expeditions under sea ice and under an Antarctic floating glacier. A new vehicle Autosub6000 has a 6000m depth rating and in 2010 pinpointed the deepest hydrothermal vent sites found to date in the Cayman trough. Autosub Long Range is now in design, combining a 6000m depth capability with an endurance of 6000km. A concept study for air-launched underwater vehicles is also in progress.

Find out more about Autosub
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