Autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) is a kind of robot, which can travel and function underwater on its own. Such vehicles finds immense application in the oil and gas, research and defense industries among others. In the oil and gas industry, AUVs helps to make detailed maps of sea floor. The detailed maps ensures oil and gas companies to build subsea infrastructures and pipeline. In addition, AUV sea floor mappings allows the installation of subsea completions to be carried out in the most cost effective way causing less disruption to the environment under the sea. In the research industry, scientist carry out research of lakes, ocean floors and sea creatures with the help of AUVs. A number of sensors and other equipments can be fitted on the AUVs, which helps in the study of the concentration of numerous compounds or elements, presence of microscopic life and the reflection or absorption of light beneath the sea.
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In the defense industry, AUVs have numerous military applications such as mine counter measures, anti-submarine warfare, intelligence and surveillance, oceanography, identification and inspection of unmanned objects, payload delivery, navigation network nodes and communication, time-critical strike and information operations among others. In addition, such vehicles helps in the ship wreckage and air crash investigations. Moreover, AUVs can also be helpful in tracking illegal drug and human trafficking along with smuggling of goods and materials. For the purpose of inspection, surveillance and ocean floor mapping, AUVs are fitted with a number of sensors such as depth sensors, compasses, conductivity probes, thermistors, magnetometers sonars and sidescan. Autonomous underwater vehicles are powered by rechargeable batteries such as lithium polymer, lithium ion and nickel metal hydride. Some AUVs use primary batteries for its mission which allows twice the endurance compared to other power sources. In addition, few AUVs are powered by aluminum based semi fuel cells, which require high maintenance and expensive refills. Aluminum based AUVs emit large amount of waste products, which are required to be handled safely. In the coming years, AUVs are expected to be powered by combination of different power and battery management systems with super capacitors.
Autonomous underwater vehicles range in size from lightweight portable to large vehicle such as 10 meters in length. Large AUVs have advantages in terms sensor payload capacity and endurance. The market for AUV is evolving and upcoming AUVs are expected to be hover capable, which will be used for light intervention and inspection for offshore energy applications.
The autonomous underwater vehicles market can be classified by application, by type and by technology. The application segment can be classified into oil and gas, research, defense and others. By type, the market can be segregated as shallow AUVs, medium AUVs and large AUVs.The technology segments is divided into collision avoidance, imaging, propulsion, navigation and communication.
In the autonomous underwater vehicles market, North America holds the largest market share followed by Europe, Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa, and Latin America. Increasing defense expenditures coupled with the rising ocean research and application of autonomous underwater vehicles in the oil and gas industry in North America is driving the growth of this market in the region. However, in the coming years, Asia Pacific is expected to become the largest market considering the high growth rate of autonomous underwater vehicles in the region. China, India, Japan, South Korea and Australia are the key markets of the Asia Pacific region.
The key players in the autonomous underwater vehicles market include Teledyne Gaviaehf. (Iceland), Kongsberg Maritime AS (Norway), Bluefin Robotics Corporation (U.S.), Saab Group (Sweden), ECA Group (France),Fugro N.V. (Netherlands), Ocean Server Technology, Inc. (U.S.), Atlas Elektronik Group GmbH (Germany), International Submarine Engineering Ltd. (Canada)and Boston Engineering Corporation (U.S.) among others.