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Meeting the Accuracy Challenge in Airborne Bathymetry

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The essential qualities for a successful airborne lidar bathymeter are accuracy, capability, and cost effectiveness. Over the past twenty five years, developments in lasers, optics, electronics, and computers have made it somewhat easier to construct viable airborne lidar systems with varying purposes, and an increasing number are being constructed. Fewer than ten airborne lidar bathymeters exist in the world today, however, because of limited demand and because of the fact that it is still very difficult to meet the above three requirements, particularly the first. It is not hard to get answers from a system. It takes a great deal of understanding and effort, however, to obtain results that will meet international accuracy standards and the operational requirements of the typical customer. The primary considerations in the design, construction, and operation of an airborne bathymeter must be data quality and depth measurement accuracy. Both the physical environment and system hardware components contribute many error sources that must be overcome. This requires thoughtful hardware and software system design and construction, as well as the prediction, modeling, and application of appropriate correctors. Operational procedures for quality control, calibration, and maintenance must be established and followed. In this paper, we describe the large number of hardware design features, software algorithms, bias correctors, displays, and operational procedures that have been developed to provide the basis for a system which will meet required accuracy standards while maintaining efficiency and cost-effectiveness. The above features have all been incorporated into the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers SHOALS operational airborne lidar bathymetry system. SHOALS has been operated, from both a helicopter and a fixed-wing aircraft, to meet a wide range of survey requirements in categories such as charting, dredging, coastal engineering, resource management, modeling.

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  • Physical and Dynamic Oceanography

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