Laser-based water depth measurement system deployed via unmanned aerial vehicle

Kai Shen, Hui Lu, Sarfaraz Ali Baig, Guomin Jiang, John W. McManus, Michael R. Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


We introduced a laser-based noncontact shallow water depth measurement technique from a flying unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV). The water depth is measured by imaging two laser beam spots scattered from the surface and bottom of the water. The effect of water surface waves and UAV tilt angles to the depth measurement has been studied for practical applications. We have further developed this laser-based detection system consisting of a green laser, a global positioning system, a camera with a narrow field of view lens, a laser range finder, and a singleboard computer. The measurement system onboard of a UAV flying over a small lake has demonstrated satisfactory water depth measurement capability. The low-cost light weight UAV-based water depth measurement should benefit water depth monitoring, mapping, and reporting in a hazardous environment offering flexibility, mobility, and remote control safe operation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number032409
JournalJournal of Applied Remote Sensing
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jul 1 2017


  • Laser
  • Unmanned aerial vehicle
  • Water depth

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Earth and Planetary Sciences(all)


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