The Indian Navy's Hydrography Department has decided to upgrade its surveying capabilities by acquiring a new autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV) that can be deployed off its existing and new hydrography survey vessels. The AUV will be used to undertake hydrographic surveys at medium and deep depths away from the operating ship using hydrographic payloads.
The Navy has set down that the AUV needs to be capable of hydrographic and oceanographic surveys and reconnaissance, collection of bathymetric data, specialised mapping, conduct of route surveys, collection of high-resolution, high precision seabed and sub-bottom data and collection of tactical intelligence. The system needs to also come equipped with various hydrographic sensor payloads capable of mapping the seabed through swath bathymetry and seabed imagery by means of continuous acquisition of seafloor sonar images. The Navy wants an AUV with a complete inertial navigation system capable of guiding the vehicle in autonomous, semi-autonomous and supervised mode of operation. The AUV unit needs to be not more than seven-metres-long and weighing no more than 1,000-kg, with a maximum operating depth of 1,000 metres and a speed of seven knots in upto Sea State 3. It also needs to be capable of 24-hour endurance with payloads on at nominal power. The DRDO is currently sea-testing its own flatfish configuration AUV in the Bay of Bengal, though this is unlikely to meet the performance requirements of the Hydrographic Department in terms of depth and endurance. The Indian Navy in 2010 also floated a requirement for an unspecified number of AUVs, though it had specified that it wanted only an Indian-built system. The Indian Navy is now working closely with DRDO.