Propelled by the US Navy, autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) are beginning to make their mark in applications that range from mine clearing to antisubmarine warfare. A number of AUV startup companies have spun off from the academic and oceanographic institutions where they were established and are now producing the vehicles in small quantities.

Among the military applications that the navy has identified for AUVs are intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance; mine countermeasures; antisubmarine warfare; inspection and identification; oceanography; payload delivery; and time-critical strikes. Commercial applications include underwater surveys, fisheries research, search and recovery, wreck and navigational hazard mapping, and water profile sampling.

According to the 2011 Pentagon report Targeting U.S. Technologies: A Trend Analysis of Reporting from Defense Industry, the AUV market will grow exponentially by 2020, with roughly 1400 AUVs expected to be built worldwide over the next decade. Global expenditures on AUVs between 2010 and 2019 are projected...

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