The Applications of Multibeam Sonar Scanning

We have always been interested about things that are not visible to us. One example of this is underwater scenery, which still is widely unmapped. We have come far from the days, when the water depth was measured with a rope. Now we have incredible technology, like multibeam sonars, to reveal the secrets of the undersea.

Multibeam echo sounders are used for various tasks in the marine industries. In this article, we discuss about some of the applications of multibeam sonar scanning.

Hydrographic surveys

The most traditional application of multibeam sonar scanner is a hydrographic survey, where the sonar is used to map the bathymetry of the seabed. Before multibeam sonars, the hydrographers used single beam sonars, but its weakness is to have a narrow beam width and hence the mapping is done by extrapolating the area from grids created with a single beam sonar. Multibeam sonar’s range and coverage is greater and therefore, the resolution of the data is significantly higher.

The possibility of attaching multibeam sonars to USVs (Unmanned Surface Vehicles) or ROVs (Remotely Operated Vehicle) decreases the working hours needed to map wide areas. This increases the amount of hydrographic data, and the previously unknown undersea areas get explored.

Structural inspections

Underwater structures have traditionally been inspected by divers, but in many parts of the world the challenge is the poor visibility in the water. The structures to be inspected are also often in heavily trafficked areas where diving is risky.

First structural inspections with a multibeam sonar were performed about a decade ago, and now its use for underwater structures’ inspections is rapidly increasing. The high-resolution 3D data received from the multibeam sonar enables inspectors to see even the smallest damages on the structure. Quays, dams, breakwaters, pipelines -the technology suits every kind of underwater infrastructure.

Naval applications

The navy was among the first ones to utilize sonar technology in the larger scale, and it has a strong foothold in creating new applications for multibeam sonars. Sonars can be used for example in detecting wrecks or submarines or aiding in rescue operations. Automatic object detection could be utilized in search of UXOs (Unexploded Ordnances) or to hunt submarines in hostile waters.

Marine biodiversity studies

Modern multibeam sonars can reveal not only the topography of the seabed, but also the type of sediment in the surveyed area. The bathymetric and backscatter intensity data are combined to define the areas of coarse or fine sediment. The analysis can be taken even further by combining video observations into the equation. This way the important knowledge of benthic ecosystems can be broadened with multibeam sonar technology.

An online 3D data platform GISGRO is specifically designed to the first two of the examples; hydrographic and structural 3D data. If you would like to see what multibeam sonar data of quay structures look like, log in to the demo account and examine the pre-uploaded data.

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Tags: Surveyor
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