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We develop and illustrate an efficient but rigorous methodology that predicts the time-optimal paths of ocean vehicles in continuous dynamic flows. The goal is to best utilize or avoid currents, without limitation on these currents or on the number of vehicles. The methodology employs a new modified level set equation to evolve a front from the starting point of a vehicle until it reaches the desired goal location, combining flow advection with nominal vehicle motion. The optimal path of the vehicle is then obtained by solving a particle tracking equation backward in time. The computational cost of this method increases linearly with the number of vehicles and geometrically with spatial dimensions. The methodology is applicable to any continuous flow and in scenarios with multiple vehicles. Present illustrations consist of the crossing of a canonical uniform jet and its validation using a classic optimization solution, as well as swarm formation in more complex time varying 2D flow fields, including jets, eddies and forbidden regions.
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