AXIS—An Autonomous Expendable Instrument System Academic Article uri icon


  • Expendable bathythermographs (XBT) to profile upper-ocean temperatures from vessels in motion have been in use for some 50 years now. Developed originally for navy use, they were soon adapted by oceanographers to map out upper-ocean thermal structure and its space–-time variability from both research vessels and merchant marine vessels in regular traffic. These activities continue today. This paper describes a new technology—the Autonomous Expendable Instrument System (AXIS)—that has been developed to provide the capability to deploy XBT probes on a predefined schedule, or adaptively in response to specific events without the presence of an observer on board. AXIS is a completely self-contained system that can hold up to 12 expendable probes [XBTs, XCTDs, expendable sound velocimeter (XSV)] in any combination. A single-board Linux computer keeps track of what probes are available, takes commands from ashore via Iridium satellite on what deployment schedule to follow, and records and forwards the probe data immediately with a time stamp and the GPS position. This paper provides a brief overview of its operation, capabilities, and some examples of how it is improving coverage along two lines in the Atlantic.

publication date

  • December 2017