University of Tasmania's AUV completes successful first deployment in Antarctica

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The University of Tasmania’s AUV, nupiri muka, and its support crew recently returned home after a successful first deployment in Antarctica.

​Located in Tasmania, Australia, the University of Tasmania says that nupiri muka is the first untethered Australian AUV to dive under an ice shelf, joining AUVs from the UK and Sweden as the only ones in the world with this capability.

With support from the Australian Antarctic Program, nupiri muka was successfully deployed under the Sørsdal Glacier ice shelf during the summer Antarctic season. The AUV was funded by the Australian Research Council (ARC) through the Antarctic Gateway Partnership.

“This summer’s deployment under the Sørsdal Glacier means Australia has joined a very select list of countries with an AUV that’s capable of independently exploring under the polar ice,” says Australian Maritime College AUV Facility Manager Peter King, who led a support team of engineers and scientists.

“nupiri muka allows us to study variables such as water temperature, salinity and current as well as the profile of both the seabed and the underside of the ice, while at the same time collecting sonar imagery and potentially data on the internal structure of the ice.”

Professor Richard Coleman, director of the Antarctic Gateway Partnership, adds, “completing this successful first deployment is a major step forward and testament to the skill, experience and detailed planning of the support team.

“Activities such as these require a significant investment of both time and money, and deploying equipment in extreme environments such as Antarctica always carries an element of risk. However, the potential scientific rewards that nupiri muka can deliver are enormous. Now that we have shown what the AUV is capable of we look forward to realising its great potential during future research projects.”