We have extensive experience of bathymetric mapping using satellite imagery in shallow water areas. The results of our bathymetric mapping are valuable for planning offshore seismic surveys, selecting drilling locations and choosing sub-sea pipe line routes.
In clear water areas, where the sea floor has homogeneous sand cover, a range of optical data including Landsat and some of the newer Very High Resolution (VHR) sensors are most suitable for this work. Our experience has covered areas in the Mediterranean, Red Sea, Arabian Gulf, Indian Ocean, Indonesian Archipelago and Caribbean. High resolution imagery can be particularly useful in detecting relatively small anomalies, which could prove to be submerged obstacles.
In obscured areas, with cloudy water due to high sediment load, satellite radar imagery is used to assess the indirect effects of the seafloor observed on waveforms at the sea surface (under certain wind and wave conditions). This has the additional benefit that cloud cover does not affect radar imagery. Whilst it is not normally possible to produce absolute measurements with this technique, it can show relative bathymetric patterns, and these can be of particular interest over shallow sand banks and shoals where there are often frequent or continuous changes in the sea floor morphology.
In both radar and optical work some form of calibration is required, and this generally takes the form of existing bathymetric maps. These are normally based on highly accurate sounding measurements, but obtained on a very sparse grid relative to the continuous sampling of the satellite systems. Thus there is often a considerable detail and resolution benefit in the satellite techniques, albeit that the optical methods are restricted to a depth penetration in optimal conditions of around 10 - 20 metres, and, at best, the radar methods only show relative sea bottom morphology.
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