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Depth calibration of the Experimental Advanced Airborne Research Lidar, EAARL-B

May 17, 2016


The original National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) Experimental Advanced Airborne Research Lidar (EAARL) was extensively modified to increase the spatial sampling density and to improve performance in water ranging from 3 to 44 meters (m). The new (EAARL-B) sensor features a higher spatial density that was achieved by optically splitting each laser pulse into three pulses spatially separated by 1.6 m along the flight track and 2.0 m across the flight track, on the water surface when flown at a nominal altitude of 300 m (984 feet). The sample spacing can be optionally increased to 1.0 m across the flight track. Improved depth capability was achieved by increasing the total peak laser power by a factor of 10 and by designing a new “deep-water” receiver, which is optimized to exclusively receive refracted and scattered light from deeper water (15–44 m).

Two different clear-water flight missions were conducted over the U.S. Navy's South Florida Testing Facility (SFTF) to determine the EAARL-B calibration coefficients. The SFTF is an established lidar calibration range located in the coastal waters southeast of Fort Lauderdale, Florida. We used 23 selected polygons at 23 distinct depths to compare a reference dataset from this site to determine EAARL-B calibration constants over the depth range of 6.5 to 34 m.

We also conducted a near-simultaneous single-beam jet-ski-based sonar survey of selected transects ranging from 1 to 33 m depth in the same area. The near-concurrent jet ski data were used to evaluate the EAARL-B performance over the depth range from 0.9 to 10 m. The more timely jet ski data were necessary because the primary reference dataset was 9 years old, and areas shallower than 6.5 m are dominated by shifting sand. We determined the jet ski data were not useful as a calibration reference in water deeper than 10 m due to large uncertainty in the vertical measurement introduced by the lack of any sensor orientation data, that is, for pitch, roll, and heading to correct the measured slant range to a vertical measurement.

The resulting calibrated EAARL-B data were then analyzed and compared with the original reference dataset, the jet-ski-based dataset from the same Fort Lauderdale site, as well as the depth-accuracy requirements of the International Hydrographic Organization (IHO). We do not claim to meet all of the IHO requirements and standards. The IHO minimum depth-accuracy requirements were used as a reference only and we do not address the other IHO requirements such as “ Full Seafloor Search”. Our results show good agreement between the calibrated EAARL-B data and all reference datasets, with results that are within the 95 percent depth accuracy of the IHO Order 1 (a and b) depth-accuracy requirements.

Publication Year 2016
Title Depth calibration of the Experimental Advanced Airborne Research Lidar, EAARL-B
DOI 10.3133/ofr20161048
Authors C. Wayne Wright, Christine J. Kranenburg, Rodolfo J. Troche, Richard W. Mitchell, David B. Nagle
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Open-File Report
Series Number 2016-1048
Index ID ofr20161048
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization St. Petersburg Coastal and Marine Science Center