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Defence R&D Canada: Strengthening a new allied fleet.

Applying technology to autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) to plan, track and control mission operations

Key facts

  • 01.


    Defence R&D Canada (DRDC)

  • 02.


    Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs)

  • 03.


    Technical evaluation trials, part of a multi-nation initiative

Client challenge

AUVs are capable of performing complex tasks underwater without human intervention. Such unmanned vehicles are increasingly being developed for deep-ocean exploration, naval-mine counter measures, Arctic under ice exploration and underwater surveying.

As part of Canada’s contribution to participate in multi-nation AUV technical evaluation trials, Defence R&D Canada (DRDC) had the crucial task of creating a universal integrated platform for mission planning and execution. The solution needed to interface with the allied nations’ entire fleet of AUVs and be highly versatile. This was challenging because AUVs are built with differing end-purpose needs and stocked with various computerised operating systems. DRDC asked our applied technology experts for support.

How we helped

We worked closely with our client to develop a series of bespoke software modules (plugins) for its existing operating systems. These solutions enabled DRDC to integrate the various AUVs making up the fleet and create and plan detailed mission operations.

  • Two plugins made missions viewable and editable, and then translated tasks into formats that could be read by the control system onboard any AUV.  
  • A further plugin integrated a path-planning optimisation tool. 
  • We also developed an integrated assets’ position tracking system into DRDC’s software. 

We then created algorithms that could directly control:

  • AUV operations, known as ‘behaviours’
  • methods that monitor or process information that affect an AUV's perception of itself and the world around it, known as ‘functions’.


Examples of AUV behaviours range from avoiding obstacles to traversing to a given waypoint.

Functions include monitoring how near an AUV is to the seabed or a vessel’s current on-board power usage.

International results

The bespoke software modules were successfully integrated into DRDC’s operating systems across the entire AUV fleet. This enabled Canada to fulfill an internationally agreed contribution to participate in allied nations’ AUV technical evaluation trials.

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