Undersea Vehicles Comparison | Systems and Technology | NOAA's Undersea Research Center at the University of North Carolina Wilmington

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Undersea Vehicle Comparisons
DefinitionUntethered, human-occupied, free-swimming, undersea vehicleTethered, self-propelled vehicle with direct real-time controlUntethered undersea vehicle, may be totally pre-programmed and equipped with decision aids to operate autonomously; or operation may be monitored and revised by control instructions transmitted by a data link.
  • Many to 1,000 m
  • Few to 3,000 m
  • Very few to 6,000 m
  • One to 6,500 m
  • Very many to 500 m
  • Many to 2,000 m
  • Few to 3,000 m
  • Few to 6,000 m
  • One to 11,000 m
  • Several to 1,000 m
  • Few to 3,000 m
  • Very few to 6,000 m
Endurance - TimeNormally 8 hours, 24 to 72 hours maxIndefinite, depending on reliability and operator endurance6 to 48 hours of propulsion - may sit on bottom for extended periods
Endurance - Range< 50 kmRange Limited in distance from host ship by tether350 km demonstrated; near-term potential 1.500 km. depending on energy source
PayloadI to 3 people, 45 to 450 kg (100 to 1,000 lbs); adaptable to tools and sensors45 to 1,590 kg (100 to 2,000 lb); adaptable to tools and sensors11 to 45 kg (25 to 100 lb); adaptable to measuring equipment. tools, and sensors
Support - ShipMost DSVs require large ship support; ship size varies with DSV sizeDepends on ROV size and mission requirementsMedium-depends on AUV size and mission requirements
Support - Handling SystemsDepend on DSV sizeDepends on ROV sizeSimilar to ROVs, depending on AUV size
Support - Navigation SystemsRelative to seafloor or surface vesselRelative to surface/seafloorSeafloor and inertial navigation
StrengthsDirect human observation and manipulationReal-time feedback to operator, long endurance capability, low cost per operating hourPotential for automated operations, ability to operate with or without human command and without tether; minimum surface support, real-time feedback to controller
LimitationsLarge size, weight. and cost due to manned requirements, limited mission time, potential personal hazardsTether cable potentially limits maneuverability and rangeEnergy supply, bandwidth of data link, capacity of internal recorders, limited work function complexity