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The paper characterizes the localization performance of an Autonomous Underwater Vehicle (AUV) when it moves in environments where floating drifters or surface vessels are present and can be used for relative localization. In particular, we study how localization performance is affected by parameters e.g. AUV mobility, surface objects density, the available measurements (ranging and/or bearing) and their visibility range. We refer to known techniques for estimation performance evaluation and probabilistic mobility models, and we bring them together to provide a solid numerical analysis for the considered problem. We perform an extensive simulations in different scenarios, and, as a proof of concept, we show how an AUV, equipped with an upward looking sonar, can improve its localization estimate by detecting a surface vessel.

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