Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute
Submarine Volcanism
Seafloor Mapping AUV
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The MBARI Mapping AUV at the surface, preparing for a mission
Image © MBARI 2006

The Mapping AUV enables us to "see" the sea floor

The development of the Mapping AUV at MBARI has provided an exciting tool for mapping the sea floor in high resolution, and has been used now at many locations along the US West Coast. The maps it generates are proving to be useful for characterizing benthic habitats, assessing canyon transport, discovering methane hydrates, and understanding seismic and volcanic processes.

Our research with the AUV along the continental margin

Mapping of geohazards

US WEST COAST - The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) has developed an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) for high resolution seafloor mapping. This vehicle is equipped with a 200 kHz multibeam sonar, 110/410 kHz sidescan sonar, and a 2-16 kHz subbottom profiler. From a 50 m altitude, the AUV achieves 1-meter lateral and 0.1-meter vertical bathymetric resolution and <1-meter resolution sidescan imagery. The subbottom profiler images subsurface structure at 0.1-meter resolution with up to 60-m penetration. Applications to geohazard mapping include mapping of recently active faults, slumps, submarine canyons, and volcanic terrains. Repeated surveys allow detection of morphological changes associated with active processes.

Reference: Paduan, J.B., D.W. Caress, D.A. Clague, C.K. Paull, H. Thomas (2009) High-resolution mapping of mass wasting, tectonic, and volcanic hazards using the MBARI Mapping AUV, Rendiconti Online Società Geologica Italiana, 7: 181-186. [Article (3MB)]

Mapping the sea floor in high resolution

US WEST COAST - The Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute (MBARI) has developed an autonomous seafloor mapping capability for high resolution mapping of the deep ocean seafloor. The D. Allan B. is a 0.53 m diameter, Dorado class autonomous underwater vehicle equipped with a 200 kHz multibeam sonar, 110 kHz and 410 kHz sidescan sonars, and a 2-16 kHz subbottom profiler. All components of the vehicle are rated to 6,000 m depth. Using precise navigation and attitude data from a laser-ring-gyro-based inertial navigation system integrated with a Doppler velocity log sonar, the D. Allan B. can image the deep-ocean seafloor and shallow subsurface structure with much greater resolution than is possible with sonars operated from surface vessels. Typical survey operations use a vehicle speed of 1.5 m per second (3 knots) and an altitude of 40 m to 100 m. The D. Allan B. has now been operated in a variety of settings, including submarine canyons (Monterey Canyon, Barkley Canyon), submarine fan systems (Redondo Channel, Lucia Chica, San Clemente), seamounts (Axial Seamount), methane hydrate outcrops and gas seeps (Santa Monica Basin, Barkley Canyon), and cable route surveys across continental margin slopes (Monterey Bay). The bathymetry surveys achieve a vertical precision of 0.1 m; surveys from a 50 m altitude achieve 1 m lateral resolution and surveys from up to 100 m altitudes achieve lateral resolutions less than 2 m. The subbottom profile data provides resolution of ~0.1 m with penetrations up to 50 m in soft sediments. These survey data are sufficient in quality and resolution to use in conjunction with visual observations and sampling for mapping benthic habitats in the deep ocean.

Reference: Caress, D.W., H. Thomas, W. J. Kirkwood, R. McEwen, R. Henthorn, D.A. Clague, C. K. Paull, J. Paduan, and K. L. Maier, (2008) High-Resolution Multibeam, Sidescan, and Subbottom Surveys Using the MBARI AUV D. Allan B., Marine Habitat Mapping Technology for Alaska, J.R. Reynolds and H.G. Greene (eds.) Alaska Sea Grant College Program, University of Alaska Fairbanks, pp. 47-69. doi:10.4027/mhmta.2008.04. [Article (18MB)]

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Last updated: Sep. 05, 2013