Coastal oceanography using a small AUV

E. An, M. R. Dhanak, L. K. Shay, S. Smith, J. Van Leer

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Bathymetry, current, temperature, and depth (CTD) measurements using a small, mobile, autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) platform are described. Autonomous surveys of a shallow water column off the east coast of Florida during December 1997 were carried out using a 2.13-m long, 0.53 m maximum diameter Ocean Explorer series AUV, equipped with a 1200-kHz acoustic Doppler current profiler (ADCP) and a CDT package. At a speed of 1-2 m s-1, this AUV can perform preprogrammed missions over a period of several hours, collecting in situ oceanographic data and storing it on an onboard datalogger. The vehicle may also carry sidescan sonar or a custom small-scale turbulence measurement package or other instruments for subsidiary measurements. The versatility of the AUV allows measurement of oceanographics data over a substantial region, the motion of the platform being largely decoupled from that of any surface mother ship. In the missions of 5 and 11 December 1997, "lawn mower pattern" AUV surveys were conducted over 1 km2 regions on the east coast of Florida, north of Fort Lauderdale, at depths of 7 and 3 m, respectively, in a water column where the depth ranged from 10 to 32 m. During 5 December, the region was subjected to a cold front from the northwest. Local wind measurements show presence of up to 10 m s-1 winds at temperatures of up to 10°-15°C below normal for the time of the year. The fixed ADCP indicates occurrence of significant internal wave activity in the region. The data collected using the mobile AUV are utilized to develop a map of the bottom topography and examine current, temperature, and density variations in the context of the background information from a fixed bottom-mounted ADCP and Coastal-Marine Automated Network buoys. The work described here is a significant step in the development of an autonomous oceanographic sampling network, illustrating the versatility of an AUV platform. The data collected during the missions described will form part of a bank for information on the impact of a cold front on shallow subtropical waters. The authors expect to repeat the missions during other such fronts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)215-234
Number of pages20
JournalJournal of Atmospheric and Oceanic Technology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 2001
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ocean Engineering
  • Atmospheric Science


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