...by the book
Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) are self-propelled, intelligent robotic devices that carry instruments and sensors for sampling and surveying underwater areas. As their name suggests, they do not require manual operation, and thus are distinct from Remotely Operated Vehicles (ROVs) and other manned submersible vehicles (like submarines).
It is important to note that the acronym UAV refers to an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (the aircraft equivalent of an AUV), and thus a UAV is NOT the same as an AUV (see ALPHABET SOUP).
...by design emphasis
The page MARINE ROBOTIC VEHICLES explains how we differentiate between various vehicle platforms. More specifically, AUVs can be further classified into different types by their defining feature(s), such as power source, endurance, or purpose. Some of the major design features and capabilities available with today's AUVs are shown below. Note that this is far from a comprehensive list, and that the options are subjective. For example, size categories vary, and size itself may be judged based on physical dimensions or even by depth capacity.
Several major design features and options to consider when choosing an AUV
Last revised: April 16, 2020