The primary aim of this field manual is to establish a consistent approach to marine benthic sampling using AUVs and facilitate statistically sound comparisons between studies. This manual will focus on hover class AUVs designed to survey the seabed due to their proven use in marine benthic monitoring compared to other marine imagery platforms (described in the next section of this chapter). It will not consider cruising class AUVs. The scope of the manual is to cover everything required from equipment, pre-survey preparation, field procedures and post-survey procedure for using hover class AUVs to photographically survey seabed assemblages found on Australia’s continental shelf regions. Deep-sea environments are currently excluded from this field manual as we do not currently have an AUV in Australia capable of image-based surveys at these depths. Although it should be noted that AUV-based photographic surveys of the deep-sea benthos have been successfully undertaken internationally (e.g. Morris et al. 2014; 2016; Milligan et al. 2016).

For further information on the advantages and disadvantages of AUVs compared to other benthic imagery and sampling platforms, refer to Comparative assessment of seafloor samping platforms Przeslawski et al 2018).