Most applications of underwater wireless sensor networks (UWSNs) demand reliable data delivery over a longer period in an efficient and timely manner. However, the harsh and unpredictable underwater environment makes routing more challenging as compared to terrestrial WSNs. Most of the existing schemes deploy mobile sensors or a mobile sink (MS) to maximize data gathering. However, the relatively high deployment cost prevents their usage in most applications. Thus, this paper presents an autonomous underwater vehicle (AUV)-aided efficient data-gathering (AEDG) routing protocol for reliable data delivery in UWSNs. To prolong the network lifetime, AEDG employs an AUV for data collection from gateways and uses a shortest path tree (SPT) algorithm while associating sensor nodes with the gateways. The AEDG protocol also limits the number of associated nodes with the gateway nodes to minimize the network energy consumption and to prevent the gateways from overloading. Moreover, gateways are rotated with the passage of time to balance the energy consumption of the network. To prevent data loss, AEDG allows dynamic data collection at the AUV depending on the limited number of member nodes that are associated with each gateway. We also develop a sub-optimal elliptical trajectory of AUV by using a connected dominating set (CDS) to further facilitate network throughput maximization. The performance of the AEDG is validated via simulations, which demonstrate the effectiveness of AEDG in comparison to two existing UWSN routing protocols in terms of the selected performance metrics.
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