The Coevolution of Undersea Vehicles and Deep-Sea Research

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The evolution of undersea vehicles and the research they enable have been mutually interactive ever since the first research submersible appeared in the 1930s. As scientists gained access to deep water they made new demands of the technology—to go deeper, stay longer, and accomplish more. Succeeding generations of vehicles, which were additionally influenced by commercial and military needs, grew in complexity, diversity, and size. In concert, scientific utilization progressed from observation, to survey, to intervention. Three distinct vehicle types have evolved, with each at a different level of development. Manned submersibles have reached a critical juncture created by cost and logistical requirements. The next generation is developing as a class of smaller, more sophisticated vehicles that are less demanding of their support systems. ROVs are also a mature technology but their use for research is still ramping up. Development is proceeding toward combining the diverse capabilities of full-scale systems, with the small size of low-cost vehicles. AUVs are the most recent evolutionary line, with the greatest potential for rapid technological advancement and unique research applications.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: January 1, 1999

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  • The Marine Technology Society Journal is the flagship publication of the Marine Technology Society. It publishes the highest caliber, peer-reviewed papers on subjects of interest to the society: marine technology, ocean science, marine policy and education. The Journal is dedicated to publishing timely special issues on emerging ocean community concerns while also showcasing general interest and student-authored works.
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