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By around the year 2020 the state of the art of unmanned Autonomous Underwater Vehicles [AUV] was undergoing the sort of phase transition that had revolutionized Unmanned Air Vehicles two decades previously. Once UAVs came to be regarded as reusable aircraft rather than expedable munitions, there was a quantum leap in the size of the vehicles and the purposes to which they were put. Now such a revolutionary phase transition is underway underwater. In both cases, the foundation was the inexorable unfolding of the gift that keeps on giving, the miracle of Moore's Law. Computers onboard the vehicles could take on greater responsibility for more complex tasks, subject to human guidance.

Unmanned Air Vehicles could receive commands and relay data [video, radar, etc] via broadband radiowave communications, to include direct satellite links. Autonomous Underwater Vehicles [AUV] can communicate for some considerable distances while submerged, via underwater accoutic communications. The challenge is the limited message size possible with this channel - text, of course, video, of course not.

For Autonomous Underwater Vehicles, the secret ingredient was the advent of onboard computers that could act in response to human guidance provided by the rather meagre channel of underwater accoutic communications. At first, undewater vehicles required onboard human presence, but over time this guidance could be provided remotely via a cable tether. Now the tether has been severed, as the computers onboard the vehicle can execute complex tasks in response to simple directions. And it is no longer neccessary to have a cable connection to relay full motion video from the briny depths. Rather, processors onboard the vehicle can provide sonar target classification and location in brief text messages relayed through underwater accoutic communications channels [eg, "climb mount niitaka", or "scratch one flat-top"].


Underwater Robots / Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs)

AUV Unmanned Submersibles
Under Water Robot
  • 4,500 meters : 4,500 meter AUV
  • 6,000 meters : Qianlong 1
  • 11,000 meters : Qianlong 2
  • Arctic class ARV
  • CR-01 AUV
  • CR-01A AUV
  • CR-02 AUV
  • Explorer AUV
  • HSU001 unmanned submarine
  • Intelligent Water class AUV
  • Haiyan 1 / Petrel I HUG
  • Haiyan 2 / Petrel II HUG
  • Submerged Dragon 1 AUV
  • WZODA AUV


  • China does not seem to have a unique nomenclature for autonomous underwater vehicles, although "Underwater Robot" seems to be the most popular. However, the term "Underwater Robot" is also used to apply to three categories: manned submersibles (HOV), remotely controlled underwater robots (ROV) and autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV). Among them, the well-known Jiaolong is a manned submersible and the Hailong is an unmanned remote control submersible. Both are good at local operations and fixed-point fine detection, but they are not good at large-scale fine detection. The Qianlong is different. It is an unmanned and cableless autonomous submersible.

    By 2020 the actual status of Chinese underwater robots is unclear. Unmanned and cableless submersibles were still in the research and trial stage, and there are still some key technical issues that need to be resolved. Chinese media have publicized some underwater robots, but by US Navy standards these are rather small, and seemingly of limited capabilities. Probably there are other larger military underwater robots that have not received publicity. Based on Chinese advances in Unmanned Air Vehicles, it may be assumed that China's lag behind the United States should be measured in years rather than decades.

    Unmanned and cableless submersibles will be developed remotely and intelligently, with a range of activities within a radius of 250 to 5000 kilometers. This requires that such unmanned cableless submersibles have a power source that can guarantee long-term operation. In the control and information processing system , image recognition, artificial intelligence technology, a large-capacity knowledge base system, and the ability to improve information processing and sophisticated navigation and positioning are used. If these problems can be solved, then the unmanned and cableless submersible can be a veritable marine intelligent robot.

    An underwater drone is a device that can move underwater, has a vision and perception system, uses remote control or autonomous operation, uses a robot or other tools to replace or assist people to complete underwater tasks. Military unmanned aerial vehicles can be used for reconnaissance, tracking, communications, mines and anti-mines, smart strikes, and so on. Civil unmanned submersibles can be used for exploration and search and rescue, mineral exploration, cable laying, safety monitoring, marine research, diving entertainment, etc., the application range is beyond public imagination.

    In the 1970s, underwater drones have been greatly developed, and a batch of robots that can work at various depths and perform a variety of operations have been developed. They can be used for oil mining, seabed mineral surveys, rescue operations, Pipeline laying and inspection, cable laying and inspection, marine breeding and dam inspection of rivers and reservoirs and other fields.

    Unmanned underwater vehicle (UUV) is a submersible that can be submerged underwater for a long time, unmanned, relying on its own energy, remote control, self-propulsion or autonomous control, and can be recycled and used repeatedly.

    China's unmanned underwater vehicles started relatively late, and there are only a few listed companies that produce unmanned underwater vehicles. At present, there are not many players in the underwater drone market, and there are only a handful of products that actually enter the market.

    Since its inception in 1953, especially after 1974, with the rapid development of the offshore oil and gas industry, AUV has also developed rapidly. Compared with ROV, AUV is not limited by cables, has the characteristics of large range of movement and good mobility, so it is suitable for a wider range of fields.

    On the one hand, the level of intelligence has become a key factor in the development of AUV technology. Intelligent control technology aims to improve the autonomy of underwater robots. Its architecture is the integration of artificial intelligence technology and various control technologies, which is equivalent to the human brain and nervous system. The software system is the overall integration and system scheduling of underwater robots, which directly affects the level of intelligence. It involves the selection of basic modules, the relationship between modules, data (information) and control flow, communication interface protocols, and the management of global information resources. And the overall dispatching agency.

    On the other hand, AUV's requirements for energy systems are small size, light weight, high energy density, repeated use, safety and low cost. At present, various available energy systems under study include primary batteries, secondary batteries, fuel cells, heat engines and nuclear energy.

    Underwater drones, or underwater robots, are extreme working robots that work underwater. The advantages simply summarize three points:

    The first advantage is to avoid the unsafe impact caused by people entering the water . The underwater environment is harsh and dangerous, and human diving depth is limited, so underwater drones have become an important tool for developing the ocean.

    The second advantage is to deepen the dive depth. Generally, divers reach the limit of 20 to 30 meters underwater. Under 30 meters, there is a greater risk of divers diving, and deep diving will also bring certain negative effects to people, such as decompression sickness, etc. Therefore, the use of underwater robots can easily detect underwater 100 meters deep. Jiying underwater robot Titan can dive 150 meters at the deepest.

    The third advantage is to extend the length of the prospecting. Restricted by factors such as the capacity of the gas cylinder and the physical consumption of diving, the average diver's launch time is between half an hour and an hour. The Jiying underwater robot can shoot underwater for more than 5 hours, greatly extending the length of underwater detection.

    Compared with developed countries, China's underwater robots still have a big gap in the research of some key components and key materials. To achieve industrialization, the focus is on basic materials, important group components, various high-precision detection equipment and sensors. Research and development, therefore, technological innovation will be a long-term work. In the future, once there is a breakthrough in detection technology, technological level, comprehensive display and control, and integrated navigation, new fields of application will be expanded, and import substitution space is broad.

    Since the marine aquaculture industry is greatly affected by natural disasters such as high temperature and wind disasters, and its ability to withstand risks is weak, it originally relied on manual inspections, and many exposed places and operation methods were not convenient. As an auxiliary tool for underwater monitoring, underwater robots can help farmers quickly complete daily monitoring tasks and transmit valuable information back in real time, thereby improving the quality of fish farming, saving time and effort.

    Compared with the marine oil and gas industry, the application of underwater robots in marine fisheries has two major advantages: one is the shallow depth of the seawater in the fishery, so the technical difficulty is greatly reduced, and the operation is simple; the second is that the fishery requires less difficult terrain operations on the seabed Therefore, the general small underwater robot can meet the operation requirements.

    In the way of realization, the underwater robot transmits the video and water quality data to the land central control room through the intelligent terminal, and then sends it to the user's terminal from the land central control room. Users watch videos and water quality parameters through the terminal, and send commands such as aeration and bait according to the needs of breeding to realize remote monitoring and automation of the breeding waters in all aspects.

    In the "Robot Industry Development Plan (2016-2020)" formulated by the Ministry of Industry and Information Technology, the technology level has been significantly improved, key components have achieved major breakthroughs, and integrated applications have achieved significant results as development goals, and commonality will be strengthened. Research on key technologies, establishing and improving a robot innovation platform, strengthening the construction of a robot standard system, and establishing a robot testing and certification system are implemented as specific measures to strengthen industrial innovation capabilities.

    The "Newsweek" website published on 26 July 2017, entitled "With a new type of underwater drone, the Chinese army can let the US Navy die in the water," a report said that China wants to defend its territorial sovereignty in the Asia-Pacific region is not subject to American aggression, and Beijings latest maritime tools can track the Pentagons submarines at a faster rate than ever before.

    Newsweek quoted Xinhua News Agency reported on the 23 July 2017d that China planned to deploy 12 drones-called gliders, in the depths of the South China Sea to collect environmental data. The report describes this high-tech glider called "Sea Wing" as an underwater robot with higher efficiency, longer endurance and lower energy consumption. It can transmit underwater data in real time, which is not yet controlled by the United States. technology. These scientific devices are not equipped with weapons, but they can be used to instantly discover US submarines sailing in waters where China claims sovereignty claims.

    According to reports, the "Haiyi" glider was developed by the Chinese Academy of Sciences and reportedly broke the previous record of the largest dive depth set by the United States in the March test. According to the Chinese Academy of Sciences, the maximum diving depth of Haiyi reached 6329 meters, breaking the world record of 5170 meters previously maintained by the United States.

    According to the Newsweek, the Chinese military media have speculated that the Chinese military will use the "Sea Wing" for military purposes. Newsweek also quoted the US National Interest bi-monthly magazine as saying that the energy consumption of the "Sea Wing" glider is extremely small and the underwater noise is extremely low. (This platform) may be of great significance to the military field. The report believed that the "Sea Wing" will give China extensive surveillance capabilities under the South China Sea and the ability to monitor enemy ships in real time.

    The Chinese Navy successfully captured an American unmanned underwater vehicle in the international waters of the South China Sea on 16 December 2016. The incident occurred 50 miles from Subic Bay, northwest of Subic Bay. At that time, an American marine survey ship "Bowditch" was planning to recover this unmanned underwater vehicle. The aircraft belongs to the US Navy. An official of the US Department of Defense said the drone was used to monitor the salinity and temperature of water to draw a hydrological map. This underwater submarine is legally subject to military surveys in the South China Sea and is the property of the US government. Many military observers said that this U.S. submarine can not only carry out marine survey missions, but also be used to deal with Sino-Russian silent submarines.

    China is also vigorously developing underwater drones in an effort to take the lead in deep-sea competition. "Haiyan" is an underwater unmanned gliding AUV. According to official data released by China, in the recent South China Sea test, Haiyan has been operating continuously for more than 21 days, with a maximum working depth of 1094 meters and a maximum underwater propulsion speed of approximately 6 kilometers per hour. "Haiyan" uses the latest hybrid propulsion technology, combining buoyancy drive and propeller propulsion technology. According to the design, "Haiyan" can work continuously for about 30 days. It is shaped like a torpedo, 1.8 meters long, 0.3 meters in diameter, and weighs about 70 kilograms.

    Underwater Robots
    Underwater Robots



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    Page last modified: 01-08-2021 14:08:59 ZULU