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Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) are widely used for marine survey, in both the coastal and deep sea areas and they are applicable to both civil and defense applications. They are pre-programmed and can operate without human intervention and this makes them attractive to many marine industries. A concern with AUVs is the high energy consumption required by their thrusters for depth control, buoyancy change and manoeuvrability and that adversely affects their performance and endurance. This paper presents the design and development of novel stand-alone variable buoyancy system for AUVs and investigates its performance through numerical and experimental investigations. The design idea is based upon the Pump Driven Variable Buoyancy System (PDVBS) and uses a hydraulic based method to control the buoyancy. The VBS is integrated into a medium sized AUV of 3 m length and the performance of the vehicle in vertical plane is investigated. The results are presented for a buoyancy change requirement of 5 kg and a diaphragm type positive displacement pump, with a buoyancy change rate of 5 kg/min, is utilized. Depth control performance of the AUV and its hovering capabilities, at a desired depth of 60 m using the Linear Quadratic Regulator (LQR) controller, are analysed in detail. Finally, the results indicate that the designed and developed VBS is effective in changing the buoyancy and controlling the heave velocity. These two features are expected to provide higher endurance and better performance in AUVs involved in rescue/attack operations.