Seabed remote sensing by single-beam echosounder: models, methods and applications.




Biffard, Benjamin R.

Journal Title

Journal ISSN

Volume Title



Single-beam echosounders are an inexpensive, practical and non-invasive means of remote sensing the seabed. Ideally, the common single-beam echosounder should be able to tell fishers, navigators, engineers and scientists what the seabed consists of in addition to water depth. Low-frequency underwater acoustic systems (<10 kHz) can do this in some circumstances, but are expensive, offer limited resolution and potentially hazardous to marine mammals. High-frequency systems, such as single and multibeam echosounders, are very effective at mapping bathymetry, but do not characterize the seabed directly. Instead, these systems divide the seabed into self-similar segments or classes, and then rely on ground-truth data (usually sediment grab samples) to assign seabed-type labels such as sand, etc., to the classes. However, inadequate and inaccurate ground-truth is a major problem. Single-beam seabed classification methods also suffer from a lack of discriminatory power and from artefacts such as water depth and seabed slope. The cause of these problems is that the methods lack a basis in physics and are mainly statistical. Then, the central objective in this dissertation is to develop physics-based methods to improve classification and to address the problem of ground-truth by inferring seabed characteristics directly from the acoustics. An overview of current methods is presented along with case studies of single-beam surveys to introduce the current seabed classification method called QTC VIEW™ and to identify specific problems. A physical basis is established in scattering and geometrical theories and observations of field and model data. This leads to new classification and characterization methods that overcome the shortcomings of current seabed classification methods. Advancements also include new physical models of echosounding. The new methods are presented, implemented and evaluated. Highlights of experimental results include a new testbed located in Patricia Bay, British Columbia. The testbed consists of exhaustive ground-truth, surveys and novel controlled experiments with various single-beam echosounders, ranging in frequency from 12 to 200 kHz. Simulated echo time series data from the numerical BORIS model and a new analytic model are used to augment the testbed. Evaluation of experimental results shows the new physics-based methodology improves seabed classification significantly and enables seabed characterization by an uncalibrated single-beam echosounder.



Ocean Acoustics, Underwater Acoustics, Remote Sensing, Geophysics, Seabed Classification, Seabed Characterization, Geoacoustic Inversion, Echo sounder