Mapping and charting of the seafloor underwent a revolution approximately 20 years ago with the introduction of multibeam sonars -- sonars that provided complete, high-resolution coverage of the seafloor rather than sparse measurements. The initial focus of these sonar systems was the charting of depths in support of safety of navigation and offshore exploration; more recently innovations in processing software have led to approaches to characterize seafloor type and for mapping seafloor habitat in support of fisheries research. In recent years, a new generation of multibeam sonars has been developed that, for the first time, have the ability to map the water column along with the seafloor. This ability will potentially allow multibeam sonars to address a number of critical ocean problems including the direct mapping of fish and marine mammals, the location of mid-water targets and, if water column properties are appropriate, a wide range of physical oceanographic processes. This potential relies on suitable software to make use of all of the new available data. Currently, the users of these sonars have a limited view of the mid-water data in real-time and limited capacity to store it, replay it, or run further analysis. The data also needs to be integrated with other sensor assets such as bathymetry, backscatter, sub-bottom, seafloor characterizations and other assets so that a “complete” picture of the marine environment under analysis can be realized. Software tools developed for this type of data integration should support a wide range of sonars with a unified format for the wide variety of mid-water sonar types. This paper describes the evolution and result of an effort to create a software tool that meets these needs, and details case studies using the new tools in the areas of fisheries research, static target search, wreck surveys and physical oceanographic processes.


Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping

Publication Date


Journal or Conference Title

IEEE Oceans



Conference Date

Oct 26 - Oct 29, 2009

Publisher Place

Biloxi, MS, USA



Document Type

Conference Proceeding