Case study: Examining the fine scale biology of animals in the mesopelagic zone using an AUV


Dr Kelly Benoit-Bird, Professor at the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Science, Oregon State University


California’s Channel Islands, USA

Echoview is a standard tool for the analysis of echo sounder data and, in ‘‘Live Viewing’’ mode, provides robust near-real-time analysis that can incorporate basic data processing (removal of the seafloor, correcting data depth as the vehicle dives, removal of noise, etc.) along with tools for combining the two frequencies of acoustic data, analysis of solitary targets, volume scattering integration, and more.

(Moline et al. 2015 page 2178)


Deep in the ocean canyons of California’s Channel Islands, Dr Kelly Benoit-Bird worked to find out how and where beaked whales and sperm whales hunt for squid. Researching organisms that reside in depths of more than 1000m resulted in the development of a customized automated underwater vehicle (AUV), which is much more sensitive than a ship mounted sounder.

AUV DORE multifrequency echosounders squids whales Echoview species identification

DOR-E a deep-diving AUV that hunts for squid and whales at depths of up to 1200 m (or 3/4 of a mile beneath the surface).

The AUV, fitted with multifrequency echosounders, computers and navigational equipment, allowed Echoview to process data and feed information to the navigation system in real time.

Echoview species identification AUV DORE multifrequency echosounders squids whales

Multifrequency echosounder mounted inside the AUV

A complex data flow within Echoview resulted in a binary variable which identified whether squid have been detected in the data. Data outputs in CSV files were used in decision making by the navigation system on board the AUV via a smart application created by combining live viewing, scripting, and a custom-built utility program.

The Echoview team worked closely with the researchers to add new software features and programs to support this project, including:

  •  Live export operator: exports pings to a CSV file in real time
  • COM methods to start and stop live viewing
  • Significant improvements to Echoview’s live viewing stability and performance
  • A custom monitoring program created to meet the requirements of the end user

Echoview species identification echosounder AUV

An example of data collected from ship-based (large panel) and AUV-based (small panel) echosounders.

For more information:

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Echoview wishes to thank Dr Kelly Benoit-Bird, Professor at the College of Earth, Ocean, and Atmospheric Science, Oregon State University for permission to present her work.