Navigation, communication, automation, and control are important technologies in underwater vehicles. The ability to navigate and control a vehicle is essential to all underwater vehicle activities. Automation and communication are enabling technologies that are prerequisites for advanced capabilities, such as autonomous operation and remotely controlled work environments. Basic capabilities allow vehicles to be used as observation platforms. Higher level capabilities allow for use of the vehicles in missions that are oriented more towards experimentation and manipulation. Communication technology enables remotely operated vehicles, remote observation, and/or experimentation platforms, and also the ability to extend the number of people who are involved in and interact with an underwater activity. Automation provides two functions. First of all, automation can take tasks that are tedious and require a lot of manpower and accomplish or help accomplish these tasks using a machine or a computer. This allows more tasks to be accomplished with a fixed amount of manpower. Secondly, some tasks can be done more efficiently (that is, faster, more accurately, and more repeatably) by an automated system than manually. This allows objectives to be accomplished that otherwise could not be achieved.
The WTEC team looked at the application of automation and control technologies in the research and development laboratories as well as in underwater systems. Automation of design, test, and fabrication processes is an important component of the competitiveness of underwater vehicle programs.