Uncrewed Surface Systems Facilitating a New Era of Global Ocean Exploration

TitleUncrewed Surface Systems Facilitating a New Era of Global Ocean Exploration
Publication TypeJournal Article
AuthorsMayer, LA
JournalInternational Hydrographic Review
Date PublishedMay 1
PublisherInternational Hydrographic Office (IHO)
KeywordsOcean exploration, ocean mapping, Seafloor exploration, Seafloor Mapping, Uncrewed surface vehicles

There is growing recognition that key to addressing critical issues like climate change, global sea level rise and the long-term sustainability of humankind is a more complete understanding of our oceans and processes within them that account for the distribution of global heat, CO and provide sustenance to so many. Yet, despite years of effort, less than 25% of the global ocean seafloor has been mapped and less than 5% of the ocean volume explored, likely due to the cost and inefficiency of traditional ocean mapping and exploration techniques using large, very expensive, crewed research vessels. Recent advances in the development of uncrewed surface vessels offer the possibility to reduce costs and increase efficiency of ocean mapping and exploration. Such efficiencies can be gained by using small mother ship-deployed uncrewed vessels acting as relatively inexpensive mapping and sampling force multipliers or the use of small uncrewed vessels launched to from a mother ship to monitor and control autonomous underwater vehicles, allowing multiple operations simultaneously and “verified, directed sampling”, all while freeing the mother ship for independent operations. We are also seeing the development of larger uncrewed vessels launched from shore with long-endurance and range, capable of carrying a full suite of deep ocean mapping and exploration tools. All of these systems and approaches offer great hope but it is very early in our understanding of their full capabilities, costs and limitations and we must be careful not to overpromise, leading to disappointments and early abandonment of a potentially innovative approach, while at the same time maintaining the patience required to continue the research, investment and innovation that will hopefully bring us to a new world of efficient and effective ocean mapping and exploration that will allow us to meet our goal of complete coverage of the ocean.

Publication Linkhttps://ihr.iho.int/articles/uncrewed-surface-systems-facilitating-a-new-era-of-global-ocean-exploration/
Refereed DesignationRefereed