Industry News

TerraSond Supports First NOAA Charting Survey to Use an ASV

The first use of an Autonomous Surface Vehicle (ASV) to perform bathymetry for updating the US nautical charts for NOAA occurred in the Alaskan Arctic this summer.


Surveying alongside TerraSond’s mother-vessel, the ASV collect data simultaneously on adjacent survey lines, effectively doubling the production rate. The ASV also surveyed by itself in areas too shallow and dangerous for the larger vessel to work, eliminating some risk to the surveyors.

“This is a force-multiplier for data acquisition. Operated in a semi-autonomous mode, unmanned but supervised, one person can replace the three person crew it would normally take to operate a survey launch; it is definitely the future of seafloor mapping.” says Tom Newman, President of TerraSond.

Demand for hydrographic surveys for charting purposes is not going away. According to the 2012 NOAA Hydrographic Survey Priorities (NHSP), 511,000 square nautical miles of the U.S. seafloor is classified as “navigationally significant” and in need of modern, full-coverage surveys. Since 1993, when full coverage sonar surveys began, only about 39,000 SQNM or 7% has actually been completed. Without significant advances in technology such as the use of ASVs surveying the navigationally significant areas will required many decades or even centuries.

The survey was funded by NOAA’s Office of Coast Survey (NOAA-OCS) as part of their mission to update the Arctic’s nautical charts. Thomas Chance of ASV and his team supported the effort, while Support Vessels of Alaska, Inc. helped in deployment and recovery onboard the R/V Qualifier 105 survey vessel.

TerraSond has provided surveys under contract to NOAA for updates of the US nautical charts since 1998. TerraSond provides precision land and marine geospatial, geophysical, and geoscience survey solutions dedicated to imaging the earth worldwide. Headquartered in Palmer, Alaska, TerraSond operates both domestically and internationally through its multiple U.S. and foreign locations. Our domestic locations are Seattle, Washington; Houston, Texas and Corpus Christi, Texas.

TerraSond supports clients in the oil and gas, pipeline, power, telecom, renewable energy, mining, shipping, dredging, construction, and engineering sectors as well as federal, state, local and foreign government agencies. For more information, visit

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