Date of Award

Spring 2017

Project Type


Program or Major

Earth Sciences

Degree Name

Master of Science

First Advisor

Shachak Pe’eri

Second Advisor

Andrew Armstrong

Third Advisor

Firat Eren


For safety of marine navigation, it is important to locate, describe, and chart the horizontal position and vertical elevation of exposed marine surface features such as piers, piles, and rocks. Vessel-mounted laser scanners have been previously demonstrated to be effective tools for this task. However, the use of expensive survey-grade laser scanners for this shoreline survey requirement has been considered by United States charting authorities to be cost prohibitive. In this work, an in-depth performance evaluation of the Velodyne VLP-16 system, a low-cost industrial-grade mobile laser scanner, was conducted to characterize its performance. The VLP-16’s accuracy of range estimates as a function of distance and angle of incidence, angular separation between individual beams, and data density as a function of mounting orientation and scanner settings were measured and assessed. The uncertainties of these key parameters were derived through multiple experiments under both well-controlled laboratory and realistic field conditions. The results of the study demonstrate that the use of low-cost industrial-grade mobile laser scanners can be a cost-efficient survey tool for mapping marine surface features with performance that can meet survey requirements for charting purposes. Additionally, this study demonstrates that the Velodyne VLP-16 can be used as a validation tool for measuring the vertical clearance of bridges and overhead power cables crossing navigation channels.