Evaluation of Unmanned Surface Vessel (USV) Technology for Bathymetric Surveying of Riverine Environments

The North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT) needs a diverse set of cost-effective, reliable, and efficient tools to periodically map the bathymetry of various bodies of water across the state. Bathymetric data collection is used by NCDOT in several ways, including as input data for hydraulic modeling software (e.g., for flood risk assessment), to plan dredging operations, and to monitor scour around bridges. The long-term goal of this research is to improve the capability of NCDOT to efficiently and cost-effectively collect high-quality bathymetric survey data using unmanned surface vessel platfonns in inland bodies of water. The specific research objectives are (1) experimentally evaluate a professional hydrographic survey unmanned surface vessel (USV) for NCDOT-relevant inland survey use cases, (2) transition USV survey capability to NCDOT, and (3) review unmanned surface vessel/sonar technologies to envision and support current and future NCDOT needs. The University of North Carolina (UNC) Charlotte team will purchase a commercial hydrographic survey USV (the HyDrone from Seafloor Systems, Inc.) and gain expertise in deploying, operating, recovering, and maintaining the vehicle as well as processing resulting data using HYPACK ECHO software during the first year of the project. Following this preliminary/familiarization phase, the UNC Charlotte will plan and execute an extensive field-testing campaign that will evaluate the USVs data collection capabilities within the context of the following scenarios: (1) survey in shallow-water rivers/streams with moderate currents, (2) survey in a difficult-to-access ponds, (3) survey in the vicinity of structures (e.g., near a bridge or large culvert). Based on field testing results, a set of recommended vehicle mission planning procedures, operating protocols/workflows, and data processing procedures tailored for NCDOT-use will be developed. The UNC Charlotte will support the transition of the USV to NCDOT by providing documentation, guidance, and training for NCDOT operators. In parallel to this main effort, the UNC Charlotte team will conduct a comprehensive literature review of sonar-based technologies, including manned systems and unmanned platforms, for current and future NCDOT applications. This technology review will identify NCDOT priorities and objectives, develop a design specification rating system, and evaluate candidate platforms. The literature review will be synthesized into a comprehensive report that summarizes the key findings, the results of the cost-benefit analysis, and provides interpretation and recommendations. The overall outcome of this project will be to integrate a small SBES-equipped USV into a subset of inland survey work conducted by NCDOT. This will increase NCDOT's operational efficiency and provide time savings. This project will also benefit NCDOT by providing exposure and knowledge related to sonar and USV technology that will inform future acquisition and/or future research directions


    • English


    • Status: Active
    • Funding: $125149
    • Contract Numbers:


    • Sponsor Organizations:

      North Carolina Department of Transportation

      Research and Development
      1549 Mail Service Center
      Raleigh, NC  United States  27699-1549
    • Managing Organizations:

      North Carolina Department of Transportation

      Research and Development
      1549 Mail Service Center
      Raleigh, NC  United States  27699-1549
    • Project Managers:

      Kirby, John

    • Performing Organizations:

      University of North Carolina, Charlotte

      Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering
      9201 University City Boulevard
      Charlotte, NC  United States  28223-0001
    • Principal Investigators:

      Wolek, Artur

    • Start Date: 20230801
    • Expected Completion Date: 20250731
    • Actual Completion Date: 0

    Subject/Index Terms

    Filing Info

    • Accession Number: 01891720
    • Record Type: Research project
    • Source Agency: North Carolina Department of Transportation
    • Contract Numbers: FHWA/NC/2024-20
    • Files: RIP, STATEDOT
    • Created Date: Aug 28 2023 9:36AM