ABE, the Autonomous Benthic Explorer, is an autonomous underwater vehicle that is used by scientists to map the seafloor at very high resolution and to explore for hydrothermal vents. ABE excels at tasks that require precise navigation, including bathymetric surveys, water column mapping, and photo mosaicking. Because it does not have a tether, but swims freely, ABE operates independently of the ship. ABE uses sonar transponders to navigate above the seafloor, much like the submersible Alvin and the remotely operated vehicle Jason 2.

Before ABE is deployed, a program of the assigned survey path is loaded into its memory. ABE collects data along the trackline or survey path, and these data are downloaded at the end of the mission after the vehicle is recovered. For this cruise, ABE will be collecting very accurate and precise bathymetric data to make high-resolution maps of the Endeavour Segment. Because hydrothermal fluids emitted at vent sites like the Main Endeavour field and Mothra leave a pronounced chemical and thermal "signature" in the ocean, ABE will also collect information about the chemistries and temperatures of the fluids while surveying. These emitted fluids form plumes, or bodies of water with anomalous properties compared to those of the background ocean, and therefore they can serve as guides to finding to new fields. Think of cooling towers on energy plants that emit plumes of steam on a cool morning; the hydrothermal plumes are similar in nature. ABE is also equipped with two cameras that are capable of taking stereo images of the seafloor.