March 2019 OES Beacon

2018 IEEE OES AUV Symposium, Porto, Portugal, November 6–9, 2018

João Tasso de Figueiredo Borges de Sousa, LSTS—University of Porto, Chair

Group photo of participants in the 2018 IEEE OES AUV Symposium.

The IEEE OES AUV Symposium is organized every other year to bring together those working in the field of autonomous underwater vehicles (AUV). In 2018, the Symposium was held in early November, at the Rectory of the University of Porto—a venue conveniently located close to downtown Porto within walking distance from the house of Henry the Navigator. The Symposium was jointly organized by the Laboratório de Sistemas e Tecnologia Subaquática (LSTS), University of Porto, IEEE OES and the IEEE OES Portuguese chapter.

The 2018 IEEE OES AUV Symposium was sponsored by:

  • APDL—Administração dos Portos do Douro, Leixões e Viana do Castelo, SA;
  • Evologics;
  • Kongsberg;
  • Ocean Infinity;
  • Oceanscan Marine Systems and Technologies, LDA.
  • Schmidt Ocean Institute.
    More information about the IEEE OES AUV 2018 Symposium can be found at the website:

The 2018 IEEE OES AUV by the Numbers
The IEEE OES AUV 2018 had a record number of submissions and participants:

  • 205 abstract submissions;
  • 24 submissions to the student poster competition;
  • 10 finalists of the student poster competition;
  • 95 abstracts accepted for oral presentation;
  • 25 abstracts accepted for poster presentation;
  • 30 participating countries;
  • 210 registrations;
  • 8 exhibitors.

These figures show that the AUV community has been growing significantly in size and diversity. In fact, IEEE OES AUV 2018 has drawn a total attendance of over 200 participants coming from academia, industry, governmental organizations, research institutes and private foundations.

IEEE OES AUV was very well aligned with the surge of Portuguese interest in the oceans that comes from the recognition that Portugal harbors unique environments in the deep sea, as well as in the water column, and holds tremendous potential for the installation and operation of offshore wind/wave energy harvesting infrastructures and aquaculture farms. Simultaneously, the Symposium was also very well aligned with the Atlantic International Research Centre (AIR Centre) initiative launched by the Portuguese government to foster a long-term multilateral platform for cooperation along and across the Atlantic with an inclusive perspective to S&T and economic development.

Presentation during one of the technical sessions.

Technical and Poster Sessions

Thanks to the remarkable work of a committed group of 65 reviewers from Europe, Asia, and North and South America, each submitted abstract was evaluated by 3 reviewers. The same happened with the student Poster competition’s submissions.

In total, 95 presentations were organized into the following technical sessions covering a wide range of topics of interest to the AUV community:

  • Software
  • Extreme environments
  • Vehicles I & II
  • Planning I & II
  • Multi-vehicle
  • Localization/Navigation I & II
  • Control
  • Applications I & II
  • Applications/Mapping

In a departure from the traditional presentation format, this IEEE OES AUV edition also included two poster sessions in the technical program. The sessions took place during the lunch breaks and were well attended with a very strong engagement from the participants.

Again, the single-track format for the technical sessions proved very successful, with individual presentations followed by a few minutes dedicated to questions from the audience. Most sessions, even those taking place in the early morning or in the late afternoon, had over 100 participants. This was even more impressive considering the heavy schedule of the Symposium.

Q&A after presentations.

Plenary Sessions

The Symposium had three plenaries:

  • A 30-year History of Research in Unmanned Systems by Prof. Anthony Healey, Naval Postgraduate School, USA.
  • Multi-platform Ocean Observation from Events to Climate: Challenges and Opportunities by Dr. Joaquín Tintoré, Socib, Spain.
  • Oceanographic collaborations with Schmidt Ocean Institute by Dr. Victor Zykov, Schmidt Ocean Institute, USA.

Student Poster Competition

The competition was about a conceptual AUV design challenge, entitled “AUV system for data collection in the water column”. Students were invited to submit proposals addressing the following design requirements:

  • Endurance: for over 9 hours;
  • Launch and recovery: from shore or from a ship (without the support of a workboat);
  • Data transfer: wireless;
  • Maximum time between deployments: 6 hours;
  • Motion patterns: profiling the water column between the surface and 100 meters along predefined paths;
  • Sensor payload: CTD, turbidity and fluorometer;
  • Command and control interface: smartphone based;
  • Low cost.

Participants in the Student Poster Competition.

Participants in the Student Poster Competition.

There were 24 applications from Europe, Asia and USA, out of which 10 were selected to participate in the Symposium and present their project. The selected applications received a financial incentive of up to € 900 in the form of travel support and registration discount. Furthermore, the 3 best posters were awarded with prizes totaling € 3,000.

The first prize went to Brian Page from Michigan Technological University, for his poster entitled “Littoral Magnetic and Water Column Survey Underwater Glider”. Misung Sung from Pohang University of Science and Technology (POSTECH) received the second prize for his poster entitled “Ballon AUV: Seawater Sampling AUV Using Active Buoyancy Control”. Finally, Tsz Ho Sze from CityU Underwater Robotics, City University of Hong Kong, was placed third for his poster entitled “Low Cost Structural Morphing AUV for Long-term Water Column Exploration and Data-Harvesting”.


The awards ceremony took place at the end of the second day. After the award ceremony, Neil Bose gave a short presentation about the IEEE AUV 2020 that will take place in St. John´s, Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada.

The Lifetime Achievement Award from the IEEE committee on Unmanned Underwater Systems, was given to William (Bill) Kirkwood for his outstanding career and commitment to the IEEE OES Society. At MBARI he advanced the state of the art in AUV systems by designing, developing and deploying several innovative vehicles and technologies. Bill has been an outstanding mentor to dozens of students and researchers and a role model for the AUV community.

The new Rising Star Award was presented for the first time in the 2018 edition of the IEEE OES AUV Symposium. This award aims to recognize researchers for outstanding work with exceptional future potential. Ten nominations were considered for that purpose, and deliberations resulted in a tie between two nominees. As a result, two awards were to be given, one to Hayato Kondo from Tokyo University and the other to João Borges de Sousa from LSTS—University of Porto.

At the end, the local organizing committee of the 2018 edition was also honored by IEEE OES in appreciation for an outstanding organization.

Bill Kirkwood (on the right) after being presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award, joined by his wife and Hanumant Singh.
On the left, Hayato Kondo receiving his Rising Star Award from Bill Kirkwood. On the right, the same award being presented to João Borges de Sousa by Hanumant Singh and Bill Kirkwood.


The Symposium also comprised an exhibit that was very well attended. The exhibit hall was strategically located close to the area in which lunch and coffee breaks were served to encourage networking and product showcasing.

The exhibitors list included the Directorate-General for Maritime Policy, the EU Marine Robots project, Nortek, Oceanscan Marine Systems and Technologies, Escola Secundária de Santa Maria Maior and Ocean Sonics.

The exhibit segment was complemented by some other participations, namely from Ocean Infinity and the Schmidt Ocean Institute.

Students from the Santa Maria Maior high school
present their marine robotics project.


Students from the Santa Maria Maior high school
present their marine robotics project.

In view of raising awareness of new generations to Ocean Robotics, a group of high school students from the Escola Secundária de Santa Maria Maior was invited to participate in the Symposium activities.

At the exhibit area, the students were encouraged to showcase a marine robot targeted at providing real-time information about rip currents to beach goers and water sports athletes, which they have developed under a robotics project sponsored by LSTS and by the Escola Azul (a Portuguese national program that aims at promoting ocean literacy and awareness in high schools). Alongside their participation in several sessions, the students also connected with participants engaged in student outreach activities in their countries. The students were thrilled for being able to interact with some of most prominent names in marine robotics worldwide.

Ice-breaker and Conference Dinner

The ice-breaker and the conference dinner provided excellent opportunities for discussions and networking.
The first day of the conference closed with an ice-breaker reception sponsored by Ocean Infinity. Port wine took central stage, as expected in the capital of Port wine.

The conference dinner took place at the Intercontinental Hotel during the third day of the Symposium. Featuring codfish as the main course, the dinner was mainly punctuated by the elegant design of the place and the friendly ambience, all combining into a very pleasant evening.

Participants at the Ice-breaker sponsored by Ocean Infinity.
Conference dinner.

The Future

The AUV community has been growing significantly over the last decade and it is expected to continue growing at an accelerated pace. The organization of future editions of the IEEE OES AUV Symposium is taking these facts into consideration to best serve the AUV community.
The Symposium closed with one discussion session, chaired by Hanumant Singh, about the future of the Symposium. The topics under discussion included the duration and size of the Symposium, the single-track format, as well as the reviewing process. The elements of the discussion provided the background for an online questionnaire, made available to all participants, about future editions of the Symposium. The lessons learned from the over 100 answers to these questionnaires are being used to shape the future of the IEEE OES AUV Symposium. The 2020 edition of the Symposium will put these contributions to the test!