Bathymetric lidars – devices that employ powerful lasers to scan beneath the water's surface – are used today primarily to map coastal waters. At nearly 600 pounds, the systems are large and heavy, and they require costly, piloted aircraft to carry them.
A team at the Georgia Tech Research Institute (GTRI) has designed a new approach that could lead to bathymetric lidars that are much smaller and more efficient than the current full-size systems. The new technology, developed under the Active Electro-Optical Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (AEO-ISR) project, would let modest-sized unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) carry bathymetric lidars, lowering costs substantially.
And, unlike currently available systems, AEO-ISR technology is designed to gather and transmit data in real time, allowing it to produce high-resolution 3-D undersea imagery with greater speed, accuracy, and usability.
These advanced capabilities could support a range of military uses such as anti-mine and anti-submarine intelligence and nautical charting, as well as civilian mapping tasks. In addition, GTRI’s new lidar could probe forested areas to detect objects under thick canopies.