Adaptive Sampling of Surface Fronts in the Arctic Using an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle
Peer reviewed, Journal article
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Original versionIEEE Journal of Oceanic Engineering. 2021, 46 (4), 1155-1164. 10.1109/JOE.2021.3070912
Fronts between Arctic- and Atlantic-origin waters are characterized by strong lateral gradients in temperature and salinity. Ocean processes associated with fronts are complex with considerable space and time variability. Therefore, resolving the processes in frontal zones by observation is challenging but important for understanding the associated physical–biological interactions and their impact on the marine ecosystem. The use of autonomous robotic vehicles and in situ data-driven sampling can help improve and augment the traditional sampling practices, such as ships and profiling instruments. Here, we present the development and results of using an autonomous agent for detection and sampling of an Arctic front, integrated on board an autonomous underwater vehicle. The agent is based on a subsumption architecture implemented as behaviors in a finite-state machine. Once a front is detected, the front tracking behavior uses observations to continuously adapt the path of the vehicle to perform transects across the front interface. Following successful sea trials in the Trondheimsfjord, the front-tracking agent was deployed to perform a full-scale mission near 82∘N north of Svalbard, close to the sea ice edge. The agent was able to detect and track an Arctic frontal feature, performing a total of six crossings while collecting vertical profiles in the upper 90 m of the water column. Measurements yield a detailed volumetric description of the frontal feature with high resolution along the frontal zone, augmenting ship-based sampling that was run in parallel.