The Seafloor: A Key Factor in Lidar Bottom Detection


The environmental factors that determine the ability of airborne lidar bathymetry (ALB) to detect the seafloor are not well understood; however, water clarity is often considered the single factor for detection. A comparison of data from two different ALB systems (LADS-MKII and SHOALS-3000) of a small area offshore Gerrish Island, Maine, USA shows a striking correlation (95% overlap) in areas of no bottom detection that is independent of the tide status, the date of collection and the orientation of the survey flight. The laser measurements from the two ALB systems are compared to acoustic measurements of depth, seafloor slope, and backscatter from a Kongsberg EM3002 echosounder. The comparison shows that in water depths deeper than 7 m, there is a close correlation between the ALB detection patterns and bottom features. The study results indicate that lack of bottom detection by ALB does not necessarily indicate that water depths deeper than the surrounding areas have lidar strong bottom detection. No bottom detection in the study area actually reflects a change in bottom characteristics.

Publication Date


Journal or Conference Title

IEEE Transactions on Geoscience and Remote Sensing


49, Number 3



Publisher Place

Washington DC, USA



Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Document Type

Journal Article