As technology advances, there is an increasing interest in the scientific community for the use of Unmanned Underwater Vehicles in general and Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) in particular. Although tele- operated robots (ROVs) are currently the state of the art in underwater exploration, the use of AUVs opens a new frontier for the study of the ocean floor. For this reason, it is necessary to put the effort in the improvement of this technology, which can now take advantage of the advent of new sensors, such as high-resolution acoustic cameras, able to provide data with high visual quality, contrary to only few years ago. In the same way, marine biologists and geologists have an increasing interest in gaining a global viewpoint of the interest site exploiting the advantages of photo-mosaics, at the same time that the level of detail of the acquired images is maintained.
The main objectives are:
1. Develop the technology to automatically acquire video, photographic and sonar data of large areas of the seafloor using a hovering autonomous underwater vehicle.
2. Advance in the problem of global alignment to render higher quality photo-mosaics of the interest site, developing new gradient-domain techniques to obtain seamless mosaics.
3. Develop the methodology for optimal fusion of optical data with high-resolution acoustic cameras, obtaining a tool for the creation of very detailed 3D maps of complex areas.