Name of customer organisation: Joint Nature Conservation Committee (JNCC)

Contract Start date:18 December 2017

Contract completion date:16 March 2018

The aim of the project was to create new Procedural Guidelines (PGs) for JNCC for the monitoring of sublittoral habitats using Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs). AUVs create enormous potential for monitoring marine environments. They are used by both commercial and research organisations to collect high resolution high-resolution acoustics, still photographs and video data. As technology has developed and become more widely available, AUVS are becoming increasingly used to collect data in locations where it is difficult to sample using ship-based approaches. This is made possible because of their good range (up to 70 km), and ability to operate in extreme environments such as the deep sea and under ice shelfs.

So far, the use of AUVs for monitoring subtidal habitats has been largely limited to research and development applications. However, the wide ranging capabilities of AUVs creates enormous potential for monitoring these environments; they can be equipped with range of sampling tools, collect multiple types of data simultaneous and operate in depths and locations difficult or dangerous to reach by ship or scuba.  The PG explores these advantages, while also making users aware of their limitations, such as difficulties working in strong currents, lack of manoeuvrability, problems with surveying habitats with complex terrain and current lack of live data streaming.

The PG provides clear, succinct guidelines that can be understood by a marine scientist with no prior experience of using AUVs but may wish to use them in their work. Factors around commissioning an AUV from a specialist contractor will be made clear so monitoring scientists can clearly communicate their requirements and the results they require. The PG also summarises different AUV operations to provide coherent guidelines on the suitability of different types of AUVs for different purposes. The MBA project team was supported by a range of partners and reviewers.