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Marine archaeology beyond the capabilities of scuba divers is a technologically enabled field. The tool suite includes ship-based systems such as towed side-scan sonars and remotely operated vehicles, and more recently free-swimming autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs). Each of these platforms has various imaging and mapping capabilities appropriate for specific scales and tasks. Broadly speaking, AUVs are becoming effective tools for locating, identifying, and surveying archaeological sites. This paper discusses the role of AUVs in this suite of tools, outlines some specific design criteria necessary to maximize their utility in the field, and presents directions for future developments. Results are presented for a recent joint AUV–towed system survey and a demonstration of current mine-hunting technologies applied to archaeology.

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(c) 2010 Institution of Mechanical Engineers (IMechE).