Underwater Vehicles


In order to understand the ocean, scientists often find they have to get themselves or their instruments into very specific parts of it. Traditionally, researchers have used ships to photograph the depths, to drop floats and drifters into the currents, and to collect samples of water, rock, and marine life.

In recent years, the spectrum of available observing tools has grown to include human-occupied submersibles, remote-controlled vehicles, autonomous, and towed robots.

NDSF Vehicles

The National Deep Submergence Facility builds and operates vehicles that take scientists or a "scientific presence" deep beneath the surface to observe, sample, and conduct experiments.
» HOV Alvin
» ROV Jason
» AUV Sentry

HROV Nereid Under Ice

The Nereid UI system provides scientific access to under-ice and ice-margin environments that is presently impractical or infeasible.


The DEEPSEA CHALLENGER is a one-person human-occupied vehicle (HOV) that was built to descend to and explore the deepest places in the ocean. In March 2012, James Cameron used it to visit Challenger Deep. One year later, he transferred the vehicle to WHOI, forming a partnership to advance deep-ocean science and exploration.


AUVs are programmable, robotic vehicles that, depending on their design, can drift, drive, or glide through the ocean without real-time control by human operators.

» Mesobot
» SeaBED
» Sentry
» Spray Glider
» Slocum Glider

Towed Vehicles

Equipped with a variety of sensors, towed vehicles are lowered over the side of a research vessel and pulled through the water at different depths.

» SeaSoar
» TowCam
» Video Plankton Recorder