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Mar Pollut Bull. 2019 Mar;140:17-29. doi: 10.1016/j.marpolbul.2019.01.009. Epub 2019 Jan 18.

A review of unmanned vehicles for the detection and monitoring of marine fauna.

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SMRU Consulting, New Technology Centre, North Haugh, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9SR, UK. Electronic address:
Akvaplan-niva AS, Fram Centre, P.O. Box 6606, Langnes, 9296 Tromsø, Norway.
Centre for Research into Ecological and Environmental Modelling, The Observatory, University of St Andrews, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9LZ, UK.
Sea Mammal Research Unit, Scottish Oceans Institute, University of St Andrews, Fife KY16 8LB, UK.
British Antarctic Survey, High Cross, Madingley Road, Cambridge CB3 0ET, UK.
Seiche Ltd., Bradworthy Industrial Estate, Langdon Road, Bradworthy, Holsworthy, Devon EX22 7SF, UK.
SMRU Consulting, New Technology Centre, North Haugh, St Andrews, Fife KY16 9SR, UK.
Norut - Northern Research Institute, Postboks 6434 Forskningsparken, 9294 Tromsø, Norway.


Recent technology developments have turned present-day unmanned systems into realistic alternatives to traditional marine animal survey methods. Benefits include longer survey durations, improved mission safety, mission repeatability, and reduced operational costs. We review the present status of unmanned vehicles suitable for marine animal monitoring conducted in relation to industrial offshore activities, highlighting which systems are suitable for three main monitoring types: population, mitigation, and focal animal monitoring. We describe the technical requirements for each of these monitoring types and discuss the operational aspects. The selection of a specific sensor/platform combination depends critically on the target species and its behaviour. The technical specifications of unmanned platforms and sensors also need to be selected based on the surrounding conditions of a particular offshore project, such as the area of interest, the survey requirements and operational constraints.


Environmental impact assessment; Marine animal monitoring; Offshore industry; Underwater sound; Unmanned vehicles

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