WaterWords-Autonomous Underwater Vehicle
Our Research Partner in the Deep
From October 7 to November 7, the U.S. Geological Survey, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and the Global Foundation for Ocean Exploration (GFOE) are exploring deep-sea corals, sponges, and fish habitat off the U.S. West Coast. While the expedition is underway, let us serve as your terminology tour guides to the unusual and sometimes hard-to-pronounce words that dwell in the depths of deep-ocean science.
The WaterWord: Autonomous Underwater Vehicle
Definition: You’ve likely heard of self-driving cars, well, an autonomous underwater vehicle (or AUV) is essentially a computer-programed, self-driving underwater machine used to explore, map, and collect information from the seafloor.
Etymology: Autonomous - From Ancient Greek αὐτονομία (autonomía), from αὐτόνομος (autónomos), from αὐτός (autós, “self”) + νόμος (nómos, “law”). Under -Old English, of Germanic origin; related to Dutch onder and German unter. Water - Old English wæter (noun), wæterian (verb), of Germanic origin. Vehicle - from French véhicule or Latin vehiculum, from vehere ‘carry’.
Use/Significance in the Earth Science Community: Humans can’t withstand the pressure or temperatures in the deep sea, so scientists use robots, like AUVs to access these environments. AUVs can fly through the ocean, collecting imagery and mapping the ocean floor, and can record information about environmental conditions. These uncrewed tools vary in size and lack a physical connection to ship or operating platform (unlike an ROV, or remotely operated vehicle, which is attached to a ship with a tether and is controlled by a pilot) which means they can reach farther distances and deeper waters than an ROV or human occupied vehicle.
U.S. Geological Survey Use: During the EXPRESS 2019 expedition, NOAA Fisheries’ SeaBED AUV will help scientists survey deep-sea biology and habitats. The SeaBED AUV can dive 2,000 meters (6,562 feet) deep and work underwater for up to 6 hours and covering a 5- to 10-kilometer (3.1- to 6.2-mile) transect, while sending information back to scientists onboard the research vessel.
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