What is a hydrographic survey?

Hydrographic Surveying with Unmanned Surface Vehicles: Revolutionizing Marine Mapping and Exploration

A hydrographic survey is a specialized method used to measure and map the underwater environment. This process is crucial in various marine-related activities such as navigation, construction, environmental research, and exploring natural resources. Here's an overview of its key aspects:

  1. Core Objective: Hydrographic surveying aims to accurately chart underwater terrains and objects that impact maritime operations.
  2. Technology Integration: The survey utilizes a combination of advanced technologies including sonar systems, lidar, and satellite positioning. These tools are typically deployed from either manned vessels or increasingly, unmanned surface vehicles (USVs).
  3. Increasing Role of USVs: USVs offer an efficient and innovative platform for hydrographic surveys. They enable autonomous operations, allowing for continuous and consistent data gathering along predetermined routes. This autonomous capability is particularly beneficial for extensive and repetitive survey operations.
  4. Equipment and Sensors: USVs used in hydrographic surveying are often equipped with sophisticated sonar devices like multibeam echosounders and side-scan sonar. These instruments are key for high-resolution mapping of the seabed and sub-bottom profiling.
  5. Data and Analysis: The integrated sensors also gather vital information about tides, currents, and sound velocity profiles, essential for precise underwater positioning. The collected data is transmitted in real-time to shore for immediate processing and analysis.
  6. Customization and Flexibility: USVs in hydrographic surveying are highly customizable, allowing for various payload configurations to suit specific project needs. This can range from geological sampling tools to magnetometers for detecting ferrous materials, or even deploying Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) for detailed inspections.
  7. Applications and Impact: Hydrographic surveying with USVs is a significant advancement in marine exploration and mapping. It offers increased efficiency, precision, and adaptability, which is crucial for diverse marine environments and objectives, from offshore development to environmental research and natural resource management.

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