If you know the shape and size of seabeds, that information can be used in everything from the aquaculture industry to oil-spill response agencies. But it takes a special tool to peer beneath the waves and map the bottom of the ocean. And only one post-secondary institution in Canada has it.
The million-dollar-plus topographic-bathymetric lidar (light detection and ranging) sensor at the Nova Scotia Community College campus in Middleton, N.S., looks a little like a old-school TV mounted screen-side down in a Piper Navajo survey plane. The 80-kg unit contains a near-infrared laser, a green laser and two cameras, while another unit houses a processor that controls when the lasers fire, and a hard drive to store data. The lasers are sent down through an opening in the plane’s floor, and the unit measures how long they take to bounce back. The data is used to create a topographical map of the so-called white ribbon, a previously unmapped area between the shore and deeper water that is beyond the reach of land- and boat-based mapping techniques.
One of only two schools in North America with the ocean-mapping technology (the other is in Texas), the NSCC’s Applied Geomatics Research Group bought it two years ago with an $800,000 grant from the federal government’s Canada Foundation for Innovation and another $800,000 grant from the Nova Scotia Research Innovation trust, plus in-kind contributions from five companies.
Since it started flying missions in September 2014, it has already been used, among other things, to survey waters where one partner, Acadian Seaplants, harvests seaweed, which is used in human and animal food, pharmaceuticals and cosmetics.
Read more in Maclean’s here.