Science Center Objects

The SQUID-5 is a Structure-from-Motion Quantitative Underwater Imaging Device with 5 cameras.

Equipment with floatation is shown on the deck of a boat and on a cable, and the computer monitors show the video it collects.

The SQUID-5 camera system on the boat deck, ready for deployment, and its computer monitor setup on board the boat.


A towed surface vehicle with an onboard Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) and five downward-looking cameras with overlapping views of the seafloor. The cameras are tightly synchronized with both the GNSS and each other to collect photo sets simultaneously with their precise location at the instant of collection. Structure-from-Motion (SfM) software is then used to process the digital imagery and generate accurate bathymetric (sea bed elevation) data and co-registered orthomosaics of complex seafloor types such as coral reef and sand ripple fields located in relatively shallow water (2 – 9 meters) with good visibility. Because of high data density mapping is limited to small areas of several hundred square meters. The resulting data products have resolutions on the order of millimeters and can be used to measure mm-to-cm scale changes in the morphology and location of seafloor features over time.

Equipment attached to a metal frame floats in the water on two buoys while dolphins frolic nearby.

Curious dolphins frolic near the SQUID-5 in the Florida Keys.


  • Manufacturer – Designed and built at the USGS PCMSC Marine Facility
  • Model - SQUID-5 V1.1
  • Weight - 52kg in air
  • Dimensions – W 1.5 m, L 1.25 m, H 0.9 m
  • Power Requirements 120 VAC – 240 VAC, total system consumption 300 watts max.

Operational Characteristics

  • Minimum Operational Depth - limited by near focus to water depths deeper than 1 meter
  • Maximum Operational Depth - limited by water clarity
  • Limitations - maximum tow speed of 3 knots, sea state 1.5 meters or less, water depth & clarity limit acceptable areas of operation
  • Power Outputs / Freq. Ranges – N/A, It is a passive camera system
  • Ship’s Requirements - light lifting and towing capability, low speed maneuverability
Diagrams of water-based equipment with cameras and flotation, and labels describe the various parts.

Diagram of the SQUID-5 towed surface vehicle and the waterproof camera housings with labeled parts. Credit: Gerry Hatcher, USGS

Additional Equipment Required

A support vessel, a GNSS base station or GNSS reference network for post processing position data.

Complementary Systems

SwathPlus 468kHz Seafloor Mapping System