Recent years have seen remarkable advances in sonar technology, positioning capabilities, and computer processing power that have revolutionized the way we image the seafloor. The massive amounts of data produced by these systems present many challenges but also offer tremendous opportunities in terms of visualization and analysis. We have developed a suite of interactive 3-D visualization and exploration tools specifically designed to facilitate the interpretation and analysis of very large (10's to 100's of megabytes), complex, multi-component spatial data sets. If properly georeferenced and treated, these complex data sets can be presented in a natural and intuitive manner that allows the integration of multiple components each at their inherent level of resolution and without compromising the quantitative nature of the data. Artificial sun-illumination, shading, and 3-D rendering can be used with digital bathymetric data (DTM's) to form natural looking and easily interpretable, yet quantitative, landscapes. Color can be used to represent depth or other parameters (like backscatter or sediment properties) which can be draped over the DTM, or high resolution imagery can be texture mapped on bathymetric data. When combined with interactive analytical tools, this environment has facilitated the use of multibeam sonar and other data sets in a range of geologic, environmental, fisheries, and engineering applications.


Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping

Publication Date


Journal or Conference Title

IEEE Oceans





Conference Date

Sept. 11 - 14, 2000

Publisher Place

Providence, RI, USA



Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Document Type

Conference Proceeding