Science & Tech

(USV) DriX

Ocean Exploration Trust

Uncrewed surface vehicle (USV) DriX provides high quality data acquisition in both shallow and deep waters. Designed by iXblue, the hybrid remote-controlled and autonomous DriX is operated by the Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping/Joint Hydrographic Center (CCOM/JHC) at the University of New Hampshire.  As one of the partners of the Ocean Exploration Cooperative Institute, UNH with plans to deploy DriX during upcoming E/V Nautilus expeditions to the Papahānaumokuākea Marine National Monument and the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument. 

Whether operating as a seafloor mapping platform or as a communication relay for supervising other underwater vehicles, DriX helps move ocean exploration towards multi-platform parallel operations, thereby greatly expanding how much can be accomplished in a single mission. With its hull made of carbon Kevlar-reinforced composite material, DriX is lightweight and can travel at high speeds without compromising stability. DriX can operate in coastal shallow waters as shallow as 4-meter depths as well as over deeper offshore due to its AUV tracking and communication capabilities via Sonardyne’s USBL and acoustic modem systems.


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DriX At-A-Glance


  • 7.7 m x0.8 m
  • 2 m
  • 4.5 tonnes (w/ UDS) 1.38 tonnes vehicle alone
    • 4 days at 7 knots
    • Maximum speed 13 knots
    • Single fixed pitch propellor with a 38 HP diesel engine
    • Max speed
  • Launched and recovered in Universal Deployment System UDS which protects the hydrodynamic hull.
  • Automated Docking with LIDAR or “Moving Baseline RTK GPS” modes.

Mapping Systems

  • EM2040 Multibeam sonar (200-400 kHz)
    • 5 - 500 meters water depth. This higher frequency sonar is ideal for shallow water with a smaller beam range compared with the Nautilusʻs EM302 multibeam 30kHz system. 
  • EK-80 Single Beam Fisheries Echosounder with 7-degree, 200kHz (and optionally 70kHz) transducers.
    • This sonar helps reveal dynamics of the midwater including seeing species vertical migration through the water column and can guide midwater-specialist vehicle AUV Mesobot.


  • iXblue PHINS INS
  • Septentrio GPS
  • Sonardyne HPT3000 USBL
  • Valeport SV Sensor in the gondola. 
  • Valeport SWIFT CTD with custom CTD winch (to 300 m)
  • cameras, optical sensors, radars and LiDARs
    • 5 Color and 1 IR camera
    • Ouster LIDAR
    • Lowance Halo 20+ Marine radar
    • Class B AIS Transceiver


  • Drix reports itʻs location back to Nautilus by any of several telemetry radio systems. 
    • For hand-held remote control UHF radios within the DriX and joy-stick controller units make the link.
    • For mid-range (< 5km) and high-bandwidth communications Wifi makes the link. The bandwidth of this system varies with range to the DriX, reaching 300 Mbps at close ranges and just a few 10’s of kbps at the most distant ranges. 
    • For long-range communications (10-20km) a pair of Kongsberg Marine Broadband Radios make the link. This link’s bandwidth is fixed to one of several operator-selected values, with a maximum of 15 Mbps which must be allocated between the two radios. Typically 85 or 80% of the link is reserved for data coming back from DriX to Nautilus, and the remainder is provided for command and control messages from Nautilus to DriX.  
  •  Communications to underwater vehicles is provided by an acoustic modem which is part and parcel of the Sonardyne Ultra-Short-Base-Line underwater positioning system. This system allows sending of short, fixed-length messages and small files over the acoustic link.