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Autonomous Underwater Vehicle, Seaglider

Seaglider AUV

Seaglider AUV

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Seagliders are a range of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV) or underwater gliders developed for continuous, long term measurement of oceanographic parameters. Rather than an electrically driven propeller, these vehicles uses small changes in buoyancy and wings to achieve forward motion. The system's pitch and roll are controlled using adjustable ballast (the vehicle battery).

Presently three different versions are available - see data sheets (below) for details:

  • Seaglider C2 - Max depth: 200 m
  • Seaglider - Max depth: 1000 m
  • Seaglider M6 - Max depth: 6000 m

A Novel Propulsion Method

The vehicle moves through the water in a saw-tooth like pattern and surfaces often to determine its position. Navigation is accomplished using a combination of GPS fixes while on the surface and internal sensors that monitor the vehicle heading, depth and attitude during dives. External sensors are constantly scanning the ocean to determine environmental properties.

The Seaglider™ Advantage

Seaglider M6
Extremely long endurance allows it to traverse thousands of kilometers in a single deployment.

Seaglider™ has revolutionised the way that oceanographic data is collected. Its novel method of propulsion uses very little energy. In addition, the vehicle has been meticulously designed to be as efficient as possible.

The outcome is a data collection tool that can be deployed for months at a time rather than the hours or days associated with traditional AUV systems. While its top speed is low, the vehicle's extremely long endurance allows it to traverse thousands of kilometers in a single deployment. The vehicle is relatively small and lightweight, enabling deployment via small vessels of opportunity.

Using the AUV you can collect data with excellent temporal and spatial characteristics at a fraction of the cost of traditional collection methods.

Constant Contact and Data Retrieval

In typical operational scenarios, the vehicle will surface after each dive to transmit collected data and receive commands via satellite telemetry. In this way the system pilot can continually monitor flight performance and vehicle health, making adjustments as necessary to improve efficiency and the quality of the collected data. In addition, the end user(s) can obtain the collected data in near real time.

Sensor Payloads & Applications

Seaglider ready to launch
The systems modular nature allows it to accommodate many kinds of sensors depending on application.

The system is modular and can accommodate many kinds of sensors depending on the application. There are many potential uses for Seaglider™, including:

  • Physical, chemical or biological oceanography
  • Tactical oceanography
  • Environmental monitoring
  • Data gateway
  • Storm monitoring
  • Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance
  • Navigation aid
  • Active acoustic monitoring of biologics
  • Passive acoustic monitoring of biologics
  • Current profiling
  • Tracking and data capture from acoustic tags


The AUV was developed in the 1990s in a collaborative effort between the Applied Physics Laboratory at University of Washington and the University of Washington's School of Oceanography. Funding for the development was provided by the U.S. Navy's Office of Naval Research. As of 2012, more than 190 Seaglider AUVs have been delivered to research institutions, naval organizations and commercial operators around the world.

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