The Royal Australian Navy has tested a drone-based laser-shooting sensor to map the seabed and beach for amphibious landings during Exercise Sea Raider.
For the trials, an S-100 unmanned aerial system was fitted with a bathymetric light detection and ranging (LiDAR) sensor. Deployed from the HMAS Adelaide landing helicopter dock ship, the LiDAR projected green wavelength laser beams through the sea surface to map the seabed and create littoral and terrain geospatial surveys.
The trials investigated the optimal balance between flying low to collect data in comparison to tactical flying.
“We generate survey plans for landing areas, then create 3D flight profiles and gradients, either electronically or paper, which are used as a briefing tool of shallow water bathymetry, beach, back of beach topography,” said Lieutenant Commander Lennards, from the Australian Amphibious Force.
“The surveys are used to navigate hazards, beach entry, and exit points, helicopter landing zones, bridges, hinterland and terrain. We have overlays of nautical charts and satellite imagery used to make sure the information is current with our collection and compare anomalies with what’s scanned compared to what is charted.”
The S-100 drone has a range of 200 km (12 miles) and can be used day or night in most weather conditions, navigating via pre-programmed GPS waypoints or a control unit. It can also be integrated into a ship’s system, assisting air traffic control and gathering intelligence.
On the HMAS Adelaide, Geography scientist Dr. Alexander Lee and his team also tested hand-held laser scanners that provided 3D views of beaches, forests, and terrain that can be used for detection analyses, including battlefield damage assessment. The data it generates allows the team to better understand the limits of the LiDAR data collected from airborne platforms like the S-100 drone.
“We participate in major exercises to understand how the outputs of scientific research can be accelerated through the transition into operational use. This seeks to make the warfighter more effective for their missions,” Dr. Lee said in an official statement. “It’s about talking to people, either day or night, to better understand how science can be used to resolve issues or identify new opportunities to enhance the effectiveness of the ADF.”