Bathymetric lidars are devices that map coastal waters using powerful lasers to scan beneath the surface. At nearly 600 pounds, this machinery is large and requires a piloted aircraft to carry it. 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.
“GTRI has extensive experience in atmospheric lidar going back 30 years, and we’re now bringing that knowledge to bear on a growing need for small, real-time bathymetric lidar systems,” comments Grady Tuell (pictured below), the principal research scientist who is leading the work.
- 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.
- 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.
- Tuell and his team have developed a new GTRI lightweight lidar, a prototype that has successfully demonstrated AEO-ISR techniques in the laboratory. The team has also completed a design for a deployable mid-size bathymetric device that is less than half the size and weight of current systems and needs half the electric power.