Author: planys
Date: May 25, 2023
Understanding the Difference Between an ROV and an AUV

If you are associated with the underwater inspection industry in any manner, you must have heard of terms like AUV, ROV, or quite a few other initialisms (no not abbreviations) finishing off with ‘v’. These short forms suggest classes of submerged vehicles. Oftentimes, people tend to use these terms interchangeably, however there are distinctions & both these vehicles serve different purposes.

The Underwater Vehicle Nomenclature

The vehicles used for inspections are classified based on the genus, family, species taxonomy, etc. Most subsea vehicles are broadly divided into two categories – Unmanned Vehicles & Manned Vehicles.

Unmanned Vehicles:

Unmanned underwater vehicles more commonly known as UUVs are robots that have been built to control remotely. They do not require a human on board to give it directions. They are operated remotely with the help of cables and tethers using wireless communication. These vehicles can be in different sizes and shapes depending upon their purpose and capabilities. This variant of the underwater vehicles has completely changed the norms in the underwater inspection services industry as it allows safer, faster, and cheaper deep-water observations.

Manned Vehicles:

In earlier times, technology was still developing, and automation was not as prevalent as it is today. Hence, the best way to carry out underwater explorations was to build a steel sphere that is resistant to deep-water pressure and have a human being operate the system and collect data.

Both ROV and AUV fall under the unmanned vehicle segment. Now, let us take a close look at the distinguishing factors between the two:


ROV stands for Remotely Operated Vehicles. As the name suggests, ROVs are vehicles that are directly linked to their command module (control) through a tether. The entire system is handled by a human operator known as the ROV pilot. Precise navigation and control allow the vehicle to be most effective for undertaking inspection in hazardous, complex, and confined locations. Another major feature of an ROV is that it can be loaded with various payloads such as  video cameras, lights, sonar systems, probes, etc. One of the major benefits of this form of vehicle is that there is rarely a communication issue as these structures are always connected to the surface and all the activities are always monitored and under control.


AUV or Autonomous Underwater Vehicles are self-driven free-diving vehicles systems wherein the control and navigation are handled by the device itself without operator intervention. In laymen’s terms, the AUV can respond to the environment its placed in without the need for human intervention. For example, during an inspection, if the vehicle senses that danger is coming it’s way like a ship it will move out of harm’s way by itself. However, it is important to note here since there is no physical tether, communications are crucial to the operation of an AUV. At all times, the vehicle needs to carry adequate energy supplies. AUVs are not very suitable for longer operations as their range and communication require them to surface to the water to establish the connection.

Thus, now you know that ROVs and AUVs are different variants of the same underwater vehicle class. Both of these vehicles have their uses and should be chosen for operations in accordance to their capabilities and never as an alternative for either. If you are interested to know more about the world of underwater inspections visit or dial +91-8448188507


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