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A new Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) facility is to built at the University of Tasmania’s Australian Maritime College. The 750,000 AUD facility will specialise in underwater robotic technologies and will significantly bolster AMC’s research capabilities, said project coordinator Peter King. “There really are only a few of these types of facilities in the world, so it’s really putting us into a select group,” he said.

The university already has a couple of underwater vehicles that will find a dedicated home at the new facility, but the goal is eventually to house a large AUV capable of operating under ice that was first announced as part of the Antarctic Gateway Partnership project.

A dedicated team of engineers will work alongside researchers, faculty members, and post-doctoral students to engage in international collaborations. The AUVs will be used to survey the ocean floor and collect data on research missions.

“AUVs have really come along now as the cutting edge for ocean-based science and data collection and survey, particularly when you get into the under-ice realms,” King said. “They can go very deep, they can go very close to the bottom and they can travel long distances.”

Places like Antarctica present unique challenges that simply can’t be addressed by other methods. AUVs allow for the autonomy and endurance required for these missions.

The AMC team will be hard at work to develop new technologies that could propel AUVs forward, King said. “It’s also a matter of developing capabilities of what new types of data can we collect, what can we put on these vehicles so we can return data that isn’t accessible any other way?”

The facility should be operational by year end of 2016.