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Coastal Research Supported with Drone Lidar

image of UAV coastal research

An unmanned aircraft system (UAS) equipped with an infrared LiDAR, or Light Detection and Ranging, sensor is enabling students at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) to conduct important coastal research into the depth of water in coastal areas.

From Courtesy Story – The Navy.

The three-dimensional, laser-scanning equipped UAS is supporting multiple student research efforts under a project led by NPS Associate Professor of Oceanography Mara Orescanin to develop a more effective and reliable capability to estimate bathymetry in the tumultuous, dynamic – and operationally critical – surf zone.

“This area is typically a challenge to predict bathymetry because it is optically opaque, difficult to operate in as strong currents and waves develop, and changes on scales of hours to days from collecting data,” says Orescanin, who serves as principal investigator on the Office of Naval Research and National Science Foundation funded research.

Current efforts are building on the thesis research of a recent NPS graduate, U.S. Marine Corps Maj. Justin Crisp, who demonstrated how UAS-mounted near-Infrared LiDAR sensors outperformed conventional surveying and mapping methods to “provide a standalone solution to estimate nearshore bathymetry … and a promising path to improving coastal access capabilities for intelligence collection,” he wrote in his September 2023 NPS thesis.

U.S. Navy Lt. Corbin Mellow, an NPS Space Systems Operations student projected to graduate in June 2024, is also utilizing the LiDAR-equipped UAS for his thesis, with Orescanin and physics faculty member Dr. Christopher Smithtro as co-advisors. Mellow is exploring the scalability of LiDAR sensors, comparing the UAS-mounted unit with possible space-borne, remote-sensing capabilities to improve bathymetry using LiDAR.

For the complete article on coastal research CLICK HERE.

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