Developed in the 1980s and 1990s, underwater gliders were designed to be small, intelligent, mobile and affordable. At a time, ocean observation relied mainly on expensive and punctual expeditions using research vessels.
Decades later, autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) have reached a mature stage. Now, research institutes and agencies routinely operate gliders. Typically, gliders profile from the surface to the seabed and back – a cycle that lasts between half an hour to six hours. Gliders travel at speeds around 0,5 knots even in extreme weather conditions. They can stay at sea for multiple months. In special cases, operators can deploy gliders for a year with survey tracks extending over thousands of miles.
Marine robots are now widely used for ocean observation, marine research, and increasingly by private companies. Their demand-led growth is on par with the rapid evolution of marine robotics and sensing technologies. More recently, autonomous surface vehicles (ASV) are beginning to boom and complement AUVs with surface measurements.
ASVs and AUVs are both included in the Marine Autonomous Systems (MAS) category. Interest in marine autonomous systems primarily resides in their various payloads. In particular, these payloads amount to multi-parameter sensors on gliders that measure a combination of these physical & chemical variables: