An autonomomous underwater vehicle (AUV) is a vehicle that can roam the ocean and collect data on its own. They can wait for episodic, short–lived events and change course immediately to concentrate on the most interesting areas during an experiment.
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The Massachusetts Institute of TechnologyT/Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute program built the first prototype AUV, called the Sea Squirt, in 1988 which was used to take various measurements in rivers, harbors, lakes and ponds. The second prototype, called the Odyssey I, was first launched from an oceanographic research vessel in early 1993 in the Antarctic. It was capable of operating at depths of 6000 meters. The third prototype, the Odyssey II, was designed to operate at full ocean depths. It was designed to be mass produced and to be configurable in a number of ways depending on mission requirements. An on–board computer executes navigation and control programs, and an acoustic modem is used for two–way digital communication. The first full–scale test of the Odyssey II took place in February 1998 in midwinter in the Labrador Sea. The plan of the experiment was to have the AUVs gather data about bottom water formation for three months, recharging and dumping data at an underwater docking station at regular intervals. A mechanical problem limited the experiment to two weeks, although much useful data was gained for the improvement of future experiments.