Does Using Multibeam Echo Sounders Improve Seabed Mapping?

What is a multibeam survey and how does it work? A boat’s multibeam echo sounder emits a wide range of beams over a “swath” of water body bottom. As the beams return to the surface from the depths of the ocean, data is collected and evaluated. The processed data may be shown on a computer screen in real-time during the survey.


Different Uses of Multibeam Echo Sounder

Let’s take a closer look at multibeam echo sounders and how they might be used in subsea surveying.


Basic Operation

Multibeam sonar sensors are sound transmitters and receivers that broadcast and receive sound in many directions. When an electrical signal is sent, it is converted into an acoustic pulse, converted back to an electrical signal when received.


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Multibeam Bathymetry

Multiple-beam bathymetry is based on the idea that more rays are better than one. The US Navy developed a system 30 years ago that could send out several sound beams at the same time to obtain a series of sea depth readings along the track of a moving vessel.


Bathymetry Process

Echo sounders are used to acquire bathymetric readings. An echo sounder sends a sound pulse from a ship’s hull or bottom to the ocean floor. A sound wave strikes the boat, which bounces back. The time it takes for the pulse to leave and return to the vessel determines the topography of the bottom.


Purpose of Bathymetry

The goal of bathymetric or hydrographic maps is to assist in safe surface or subsurface navigation. Contour lines and specified depths are often used to show seabed geology or topography. They provide surface navigational information from the bottom in most cases. 


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Ocean Floor Topography

Bathymetry studies the “beds” or “floors” of water bodies such as oceans, rivers, streams, and lakes. Initially, the word “bathymetry” referred to the ocean’s depth above sea level. Despite this, it is now referred to as “submarine topography,” which refers to the depths and shapes of underwater terrain rather than the ocean’s depth.


Satellite Altimetry

Using a thousand radar pulses per second, satellites can measure the distance between them and the ocean surface to within 0.03 meters. Create a rough drawing of an ocean basin to use as a guide.


Undersea Mapping

Seafloor mapping, also known as seabed imaging, may determine the depth of water in a body of water. Bathymetric measurements are made using sonar and Lidar devices.


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Multibeam echo sounders survey the seabed with a fan of tiny acoustic beams, enabling them to cover the whole bottom completely. The resulting seabed maps are more detailed when comparing single-beam mapping to single-beam mapping. The maps are also developed faster, which cuts down on time spent doing ship surveys.