Use of Lidar Technology for Collecting Shallow Water Bathymetry of Florida Bay


  • Larry E. Parson
  • W. Jeff Lillycrop
  • C. John Klein
  • Russell C. P. Ives
  • S. Paul Orlando


Lidar survey, bathymetry, hydrographic survey, shallow water estuary


Due to an accelerated decline in water quality, Florida Bay is the focus of an inter-agency restoration programĀ  involving a modeling effort to define water circulation patterns both internally and between its surrounding waters. Models such as these require adequate resolution of the Bay's morphologic features which are characterized by extensive shallow water networks of mud banks, cuts, and basins. However, the information necessary to resolve the complex bathymetry does not exist on current NOAA navigation charts. The Bay's expansive shallow water characteristics renders much of it inaccessible by conventional waterborne survey methods. Obtaining this information requires an alternative survey technology capable of covering large shallow water areas and producing high resolution bathymetric data. During the spring of 1994 the SHOALS (Scanning Hydrographic Operational Airborne Lidar Survey) system was employed by NOAA to test its ability to resolve the complex shallow water bathymetry for a test area in central Florida Bay. Approximately 13 km of area was surveyed with a total surveying time of 12 hours. The data set presented here demonstrates that airborne lidar bathymetric technology such as SHOALS can be a valuable and cost effective tool for surveying large shallow water areas, without damage to the environment, that are otherwise inaccessible by conventional methods.