The first student AUV competition started in the United States, in 1998. It was organised by the AUVSI (Association for Unmanned Vehicle Systems International). The most recent one was held in July 2011 in San Diego California.


The student AUV competition in Europe started in 2006. It was held in the UK at Pinewood Studios. The competition stayed in the UK for 2007 but was held at the QinetiQ Ocean Basin Tank. In 2008 the competition moved to IFREMER, Brest, France and was hosted by DGA. The competition moved back to the QinetiQ Ocean Basin Tank for 2009 and this time awarded not only the top four winning teams, but also held a “Plate competition” for the four teams that did not qualify for the finals. The 2010 and 2011 SAUC-E were held in La Spezia, Italy at the NATO Undersea Research Centre (NURC).
SAUC-E '10 and '11 competitors had to handle real life sea conditions (i.e. limited visibility and salty water) since it was held at the NURC waterfront, unlike previous years’ competitions which were conducted in controlled environments, i.e. test tanks.
NURC will be hosting the 2012 event, too.
The main news of the forthcoming edition are two:

- the Student Autonomous Underwater Challenge - Europe (SAUC-E)Collaborative Platform where the students from the participating teams, professors, AUV enthusiasts, government and industry partners,sponsors can share ideas and software. The goal is to increase the state-of-the-art in the AUV technology by improving platforms, autonomy, and cognition of the AUVs that participate in the SAUC-E competition. This wiki web site forum encourages the students to post valuable comments, questions, answers, documents, software and allows for rating of the responses which will be used by the judges in giving discretionary points during the competition;

- the NATO Engineering Support Team (NEST) for Student Autonomous Underwater Challenge - Europe , started in 2012, under the sponsorship of Office of Naval Research (ONR) and ONR Global.
The objectives of the Team are: to help raise the SAUC-E competition to the next level to go beyond the state of the art in AUV technology, Subject Matter Experts (SME) to provide additional guidance the students in the design of the AUVs that can perform well in realistic environments, encourage collaboration among teams and help the teams to spend their limited budgets wisely.
NEST hopes to achieve these objectives by setting up an online forum/wiki site where the teams can collaborate, share code, and post issues/solutions; purchase the AUV components for the Hardware Library that the competitors can loan; write documents especially addressing the challenges of SAUC-E environment; and provide email, phone, and on-site support to the teams. This will hopefully result in improved SAUC-E competitors AUVs, increased students' interest in the competition, loaned sensors, integration software and data from in-water tests posted on the collaborative web page and be available to all the competitors.
NEST is open to suggestions from organizations interested in becoming actively involved in SAUC-E. NEST encourages, and will advise the judges to award, multidisciplinary background of team members. Underwater robotics needs multidisciplinary from various engineering domains (mechanical, naval architecture, control engineering, communication, etc.). NEST discourages the advisors (professors) to be quite active in preparing the particular tasks during the competition and will advise the judges to penalize such actions.