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  • Article
    Remote environmental monitoring units : An autonomous vehicle for characterizing coastal environments
    (American Meteorological Society, 2005-11) Moline, Mark A. ; Blackwell, Shelley M. ; von Alt, Chris ; Allen, Ben ; Austin, Thomas ; Case, James ; Forrester, Ned C. ; Goldsborough, Robert G. ; Purcell, Mike ; Stokey, Roger P.
    In oceanography, there has been a growing emphasis on coastal regions, partially because of their inherent complexity, as well as the increasing acknowledgment of anthropogenic impacts. To improve understanding and characterization of coastal dynamics, there has been significant effort devoted to the development of autonomous systems that sample the ocean on relevant scales. Autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) are especially well suited for studies of the coastal ocean because they are able to provide near-synoptic spatial observations. These sampling platforms are beginning to transition from the engineering groups that developed and continue to improve them to the science user. With this transition comes novel applications of these vehicles to address new questions in coastal oceanography. Here, the relatively mature Remote Environmental Monitoring Units (REMUS) AUV system is described and assessed. Analysis of data, based on 37 missions and nearly 800 km of in-water operation, shows that the vehicle’s navigational error estimates were consistently less than 10 m, and error estimates of mission duration, distance, velocity, and power usage, once the vehicle was properly ballasted, were below 10%. An example of the transition to science is demonstrated in an experiment conducted in 2002 in Monterey Bay, California, where the vehicle was used to quantify critical horizontal length scales of variability. Length scales on the order of tens to hundreds of meters were found for the region within 25 km of the coastline, which has significant implications for designing proper sampling approaches and parameterizing model domains. Results also demonstrate the overall utility of the REMUS vehicle for use by coastal oceanographers.