Magazine article National Defense

Scientists Developing Drone-Carried Lidar for Nautical Charting

Magazine article National Defense

Scientists Developing Drone-Carried Lidar for Nautical Charting

Article excerpt

* Today, when scientists map the ocean floor, they use large, heavy bathymetric lidar carried by manned aircraft to capture data, which is then processed after the fact. A group of Georgia Tech Research Institute scientists believe they can speed up the mapping process with a miniaturized lidar system currently undergoing testing, said Grady Tuell, principle research scientist for the project.

Georgia Tech has developed a 250-pound lidar system capable of transmitting data in real time and that can be carried by a medium-sized unmanned aircraft such as the MQ-8 Fire Scout helicopter, he said. Most existing systems weigh upwards of 600 pounds. "We hope to finish what we're calling our Mark 1 system by late summer of 2015," he said. This version would be deployed on a drone, but "it would not necessarily be ruggedized."

For decades, the Navy has used bathymetric lidar to create nautical charts or detect submarines moving through the oceans, Tuell said. They fire lasers into the water column and measure the depth of the water based on how long it takes for a signal to return.

However, light scatters and bends underwater, and other signals in the sea can cause interference, so it is difficult to compute the accuracy of each data point collected. …

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