The collection of marine and oceanographic related data is costly; however, these measurements and observations are necessary for various user sectors on a worldwide basis. These include data on the ocean floor, coastal seas, living resources, health of the oceans, shipping, defense, and climate. Obtaining ocean data often involves using large ships whose operational costs range from $10,000 to $50,000 per day. Because of these costs, it is imperative that the data collection capability be greatly increased. Therefore, the measurement and sampling capabilities of undersea vehicles, platforms, and instrumentation must be improved for maximum effectiveness and efficiency.
Since there is little likelihood of an increase in the number of ships for ocean research and monitoring, novel approaches are needed. There has been a trend toward the development of alternate methods of data collection. For example, various automatic systems have recently been developed, such as moored and drifting instrument platforms for international programs like Tropic Ocean Global Atmospheric (TOGA) and the World Ocean Circulation Experiment (WOCE). During the next decade, long-range autonomous underwater vehicles (AUVs) capable of measuring and sampling to full ocean depths will probably be developed. Instrumentation and sensors are being continually enhanced for automatic operation on various ocean platforms. In addition, improvements are being made to remote sensing techniques such as the acoustic Doppler profiling current meter.
New technology development, including sensors and instrumentation, is fundamental to international programs such as Global Ocean Observing Systems (GOOS), a multinational fifteen-year study that is presently in the concept evaluation and feasibility study phase. Eventual operating costs are estimated to be $2 billion per year once this program is fully implemented.