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What is a Bathymetric Survey?

Jul. 22, 2020
What is a Bathymetric Survey?

A bathymetric survey (sometimes referred to as a fathometric survey) is a type of hydrographic or water-based survey that maps the depths and shapes of underwater terrain to illustrate the land that lies below. Bathymetric surveyors work to obtain an exact representative image of the seabed and identify elevations, anomalies and the presence of scour around submerged structures. They also analyze and define the surrounding shorelines, tides, currents, and waves to create a better model of the area features overall.

Our hydrographic survey vessels are also equipped to perform singlebeam, side scan sonar, magnetometer, sub-bottom profiler, and sampling.

When performing bathymetric surveys in deeper waters for marine construction projects like dredging or offshore energy, McLaren typically utilizes multibeam survey technology aboard a custom vessel. Long ago, bathymetric survey techniques used pre-measured heavy ropes lowered over a ship’s side (lead lines), but today, technology like multibeam echosounders safely attach to a manned or unmanned vessel to conduct accurate and precise measurements. The multibeam system pings sound waves in a fan shape of narrow adjacent beams that bounce off the seabed and return to calculate the distance to the seafloor.

Bathymetric Survey in Shallow Water

Shallow water survey conducted with high-tech Teledyne Z-boat.

Shallow water survey conducted with high-tech Teledyne Z-boat.

Many bathymetric surveys for projects like shoreline stabilization, engineering design, or infrastructure remediation, require bathymetric surveys to be performed in very shallow waters inaccessible by traditional vessels. Conducting these surveys in shallow water can be extremely difficult in terms of accessibility, space, fast-flowing currents, submerged debris, navigational hazards, or environmentally sensitive habitats. To mitigate these effects, McLaren surveyors use cutting edge tools like remote-control Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV) technology. This state-of-the-art equipment conducts precise bathymetric surveys in shallow water safely and efficiently.

Topographic mapping benefiting a bathymetric survey.

For these shallow water surveys, our hydrographic crews have been using high-tech equipment including Teledyne Z-boats and HyDrone Unmanned Surface Vessels (USV) combined with either a multibeam or singlebeam echosounder, positioned with RTK-GNSS. For projects such as the survey of bridges and nearshore embankments, topographic mapping is often needed in addition to a bathymetric survey. For this, McLaren uses custom solutions tailored to each project, that may include the use of small Unmanned Aerial Systems (sUAS) / Drones, mobile lidar, or terrestrial 3D laser scanners.

Bathymetric Survey Application

McLaren’s bathymetric survey work has been an integral part of the development of many bridge and marine projects like Domino Park, Weehawken Pier, Westchester Bundled Bridges, NYC Ferry system and the development of Off-shore Wind facilities in the United States. “Hydrographic surveys are one of the first steps to determine if a project in or near water is conceptually and physically feasible,” says Steven MacDonald PLS, P.Eng., McLaren Albany Regional Director & Geomatics Principal. “In addition to large offshore or near-shore construction projects, these surveys can also be used as analysis for flood inundation, scour and stabilization, water-quality studies, waterfront facility inspections, habitat mapping, dam removals and environmental spills.”

Steven MacDonald can be reached for more information on Bathymetric Surveys and all our other Hydrographic, Geophysical, and 3D documentation, surveying capabilities. He is an industry leader who possesses a dynamic blend of renewables, geosciences and environmental expertise. Steven has over 15 years of experience delivering high resolution hydrographic, geophysical, geotechnical, cadastral, and environmental surveys with specialties in Offshore Energy, Nautical Charting, Emergency Response, and 4D full life span monitoring.