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Approaching Whales by Autonomous Underwater Vehicle

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There are few studies on the ecology of whales in underwater except for small whales (Baird, R., 1996, Otani, S., 1998). It is hoped that through the use of Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) new knowledge about whales can be gained. The whale makes sounds, and especially the humpback whale (Megaptera novaeangliae) makes a specific sound called “a song”. We started our project to develop the technology for AUVs to follow and observe humpback whales by analyzing their songs and locating them underwater.

A small size passive SONAR was designed, fabricated, and fitted on the AUV AQUA EXPLORER 2000. An observation experiment was conducted in March 2001 off the Kerama Islands, Okinawa. Prior to our studies, there were no examples of AUV observations on whales anywhere in the world. This experimental observation was conducted as a joint project of the Underwater Technology Research Center at the Institute of Industrial Science in the University of Tokyo, KDDI Co. Research Institute, and the Okinawa EXPO Aquarium. The AUV succeeded in detecting a humpback whale underwater and approaching it within 50m in this experiment.

Document Type: Research Article


Publication date: 2002-03-01

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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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