AUVs have been in development for over 25 years, and their use as a science tool is becoming commonplace. In the past 10 years, a number of operations have been undertaken in ice-covered waters. Often, the logistics and support of Polar AUV operations are more complex than for those conducted in open water. While the actual operation of the vehicle is little different than in open water, the manner in which the mission is planned can vary substantially to reflect the reality of an ice covered surface. Finally there is a perception that the risk of losing a vehicle is higher than in open water.
These and other issues pertaining to Polar and under-ice operations of AUVs were discussed at a 3 day symposium of AUV users organized by the National Oceanography Center, Southampton of the United Kingdom in March 2006. One of the conclusions of this symposium was that a Best Practices Guide be developed to recommend the manner in which under-ice operations are carried out.
The ECOR Specialist Panel on Underwater Vehicles has taken on the task of preparing a Best Practices document. A two day working session was hosted by IFREMER at it's Mediterranean facility in La Seyne-sur-Mer in September 2006. At this workshop, both scientific users of AUVs (some with under-ice experience) and AUV developers discussed the manner in which the Best Practices Guide should be developed.
Given the limited experience with AUVs in the polar environment, the consensus was that the site should be evolutionary. It was also agreed the site should contain a historical account of previous AUV missions in polar regions as well as articles and other documents that provide information and experience on the Arctic operation.
The site contains a wiki and we invite operators who have had or are going to have experience with AUVs to upload details of these operations.
Disclaimer: The Panel also stresses that the practices outlined in this guide simply reflect the observations and advice of those who have operated vehicles in polar regions, and that it cannot bear responsibility for the actual conduct of any polar mission.