Lidar Wavelength Considerations and Radiometric Performance Analysis for Coastal Applications (Invited)


Until recently, the vast majority of commercial, topographic lidar systems operating in North America used 1064 nm lasers. However, systems employing erbium-doped fiber lasers operating at 1550 nm are becoming increasingly prevalent. An advantage of this wavelength is enhanced eye safety, as greater water absorption in the ocular components at wavelengths above ~1400 nm prevents radiation from reaching the retina. However, for related reasons, 1550 nm lidar systems may be subject to a greater decrease in signal-to-noise ratio (SNR) when the ground surface is wet. When operating near the upper limits of the system’s operational altitude range—as is often done in order to maximize acquisition efficiency and minimize costs—this reduced SNR can lead to drop-outs and data gaps. The U.S. National Geodetic Survey (NGS), a program office of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), uses lidar for coastal mapping applications. One of the primary goals is to extract tide-datum based shoreline, which is used in updating nautical charts, defining legal boundaries, and in a variety of coastal science and geomorphology studies. Mapping a tidally-referenced shoreline from topographic lidar data typically involves acquiring the data over exposed areas of the intertidal zone at low tide. Even when not submerged, these areas are frequently wet from the receding tide, wave runup, etc. If not compensated for through appropriate flight planning, the additional decrease in SNR with 1550 nm systems, due to the surface being wet, can lead to sparse, noisy data or even data voids, affecting the ability to extract a tidally-referenced shoreline. This study focuses on a theoretical and empirical investigation of 1550 nm lidar systems for coastal mapping. Lidar data were acquired over Assateague Island, Maryland with a new, dual Riegl LMS-Q680i system at a variety of flying heights. Additionally, reflectance spectra were acquired with a field spectrometer for various East Coast shorelines under differing moisture conditions, including dry, wet, and snow or ice covered. These data were used to quantify the effects on received signal strength and output data, and in determining how to best compensate for reduced SNR through proper selection of flying height and other mission parameters. We conclude with recommendations for effective and efficient operational use of 1550 nm systems for coastal applications.


Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping

Publication Date


Journal or Conference Title

Fall Meeting, American Geophysical Union (AGU)

Conference Date

Dec 5 - Dec 9, 2011

Publisher Place

San Francisco, CA, USA


American Geophysical Union Publications

Document Type

Conference Proceeding