Hydrographic Survey Services

Hydrographic survey is the science of measurement and description of features which affect maritime navigation, marine construction, dredging, offshore oil exploration/drilling and related activities. Strong emphasis is placed on soundings, shorelines, tides, currents, sea floor and submerged obstructions that relate to the previously mentioned activities. The term Hydrography is sometimes used synonymously to describe Maritime Cartography, which in the final stages of the hydrographic process uses the raw data collected through hydrographic survey into information usable by the end user.

Hydrography is collected under rules which vary depending on the acceptance authority. Traditionally conducted by ships with a sounding line or echo sounding, surveys are increasingly conducted with the aid of aircraft and sophisticated electronic sensor systems in shallow waters.

Hydrographic Survey

The International Hydrographic Organization defines hydrography as “the branch of applied science which deals with the measurement and description of the physical features of the navigable portion of the earth’s surface [seas] and adjoining coastal areas, with special reference to their use for the purpose of navigation.”

Hydrographic surveying “looks” into the ocean to see what the sea floor looks like.

Hydrographic surveys support a variety of activities: nautical charting, port and harbor maintenance (dredging), coastal engineering (beach erosion and replenishment studies), coastal zone management, and offshore resource development. Most surveys are primarily concerned with water depth. Of additional concern is the nature of the sea floor material (i.e. sand, mud, rock) because of the implications for anchoring, dredging, structure construction, pipeline and cable routing and fisheries habitat.

Hydrographic Surveying can be loosely as offshore land surveying. Surveys engaged helps engineers to indentify the seabed / riverbed topography. Contours are also produce to enable them to quickly visualize the bed profile. For the dredging purpose we will usually survey in front of dredger and feed the depth information on- line and will resurvey the path to ensure that the new depth is as required.


Hydrographic Survey 2Modern surveying relies as much on software as hardware. In suitable shallow water areas Light Detection and Ranging (LIDAR) may be used. Equipment can be installed on inflatable craft, such as Zodiacs, small craft, AUVs (Autonomous Underwater Vehicles), UUVs (Unmanned Underwater Vehicles) or large ships, and can include sidescan, single beam and multibeam equipment. At one time different data collection methods and standards were used in collecting hydrographic data for maritime safety and for scientific or engineering bathymetric charts. Increasingly with aid of improved collection techniques and computer processing the data is collected under one standard and extracted for the specific use.

After data is collected, it has to undergo post-processing. A massive amount of data is collected during the typical Hydrographic survey, often several soundings per square foot. Depending on the final use (navigation charts, Digital Terrain Model, volume calculation for dredging, topography, Bathymetry) this data must be thinned out. It must also be error corrected (bad soundings,) and corrected for the effects of tides, waves/heave, water level and water temperature differences (thermoclines.) Usually the surveyor has additional data collection equipment on site to record the data required for correcting the soundings. Final output of charts can be created in a combination of specialty charting software or a CAD package, usually Autocad.

With crowd sourced surveying, although the accuracy of the individual measurements are not as accurate as with a traditional survey, the algorithms used rely on a high data density to produce final results that are more accurate than the single measurements. Comparison against multi-beam surveys indicates an accuracy of around +/- 0.1 – 0.2m.

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