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Some day, Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) will be truly autonomous—dropped off at sea on Tuesday, retrieved on Thursday at some pre-designated location, many miles away from their drop-off point. We’re still several years away from such a device, but rapid development of increasingly autonomous vehicles—with little more than occasional acoustic communication with a technician on a vessel, perhaps a mile or more overhead—now makes this possible. Today’s AUVs can survey pipelines, flowlines, drilling and mooring locations, act as deployment shuttles for ROVs, and even do sub-bottom profiling (a shallow-penetrating seismic).
Oil companies are increasingly using AUVs because they save money compared to ROV inspections and deep towed surveys. Most of the savings come from the fact that the AUVs can get the job done much more quickly, travelling at up to 5 kt, with bursts even higher.
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