In its nose, Autosub6000 has space for a variety of scientific sensors, which can be customised for different types of underwater missions. For our missions, the sensor payload includes:

* a CTD probe, which measures the salinity and temperature of the water;

* an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP), which measures ocean currents;

* a Light Scattering Sensor (LSS), which detects particles in the water, such as the smoky plumes from deep-sea vents;

* an Eh sensor, developed by our colleague Prof Koichi Nakamura, which detects differences in the chemistry of seawater associated with nearby deep-sea vents;

* a multibeam sonar system, which produces high-resolution maps of the seafloor, detailed enough to reveal vent chimneys;

* a downward-looking digital camera for taking photographs of the seafloor.

The objectives of our Autosub6000 missions in the Cayman Trough are: (1) to pinpoint deep-sea vents on the ocean floor, by detecting the plumes of mineral-rich fluids rising from them; (2) to produce a detailed seafloor map of the vents using sonar; (3) to take reconnaisance photographs of the seafloor, in preparation for dives with HyBIS, our other underwater vehicle.

Our Cayman Trough missions are taking Autosub6000 close to its limits, both in terms of depth and the complexity of seafloor terrain in which it is operating. In preparation for this challenge, the Autosub6000 team successfully completed test dives to 5300 metres deep, and on the rugged terrain of Casablanca Seamount, in the Atlantic in October 2009.

The Autosub team are already designing the next generation of robot vehicles for exploring the oceans: a future version of Autosub that will be able to survey down to 6000 metres deep on its own for up to six months at a time. Such a long-range Autosub is exciting prospect for scientists eager to explore the vast stretches of mid-ocean ridges that remain unknown.

Page 1: Our yellow submarine
Page 2: Our Cayman Trough missions

Want to dive deeper?

Listen to a NERC Planet Earth podcast about Autosub6000

Download the technical specifications of Autosub6000

Read about the test dives of Autosub6000 in preparation for our expedition


Take a tour of our research ship and our undersea vehicles, sensors and systems for exploring the ocean floor.
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