ISPRS Annals of the Photogrammetry, Remote Sensing and Spatial Information Sciences
Publications Copernicus
Articles | Volume II-5/W2
16 Oct 2013
 | 16 Oct 2013

Analyzing near water surface penetration in laser bathymetry – A case study at the River Pielach

G. Mandlburger, M. Pfennigbauer, and N. Pfeifer

Keywords: Airborne laser bathymetry, LIDAR bathymetry, green laser wavelength, water penetration, water surface models

Abstract. Recent developments in sensor technology yielded a major progress in airborne laser bathymetry for capturing shallow water bodies. Modern topo-bathymetric small foot print laser scanners do no longer use the primary near infrared (NIR) signal (λ=1064 nm) but only emit and receive the frequency doubled green signal (λ= 532 nm). For calculating correct water depths accurate knowledge of the water surface (air-water-interface) is mandatory for obtaining accurate spot positions and water depths. Due to the ability of the green signal to penetrate water the first reflections do not exactly represent the water surface but, depending on environmental parameters like turbidity, a certain penetration into the water column can be observed. This raises the question if it is even feasible to determine correct water level heights from the green laser echoes only.

In this article, therefore, the near water surface penetration properties of the green laser signal are analyzed based on a test flight of the River Pielach (Austria) carried out with Riegl's VQ-820-G (532 nm) and VQ-580 (1064 nm) scanners mounted on the same airborne platform. It is shown that within the study area the mean penetration into the water column is in the range of 10–25 cm compared to the NIR signal as reference. However, as the upper hull of the green water surface echoes coincides with the NIR signal with cm-precision, it is still possible to derive water surface models from the green laser echoes only via statistical analysis of aggregated neighboring echoes and robustly keep the underestimation of the water level below 6 cm. This especially holds for still and stationary flowing water bodies.