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Hydrographic survey is a process used to measure and describe the bodily features of oceans, seas coastal areas, lakes and rivers. The equipments which are required to do such surveys are known as hydrographic equipments. The main goal of hydrographic surveys is to ensure safe maritime navigation. Sometimes the term hydrographic surveys and maritime cartography are used synonymously; however maritime cartography is the final process of hydrographic surveys and is used to convert the raw data collected in hydrographic surveys to pull out some useful information. Hydrographic surveys are done under some rules which may vary according to the accepting authority. In hydrographic surveys measuring depth is not as difficult as compared to knowing how far the survey boat is from the coast when the depth is measured.
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The hydrographic equipment earlier consist primarily of a GPS (Global Positioning System) with a built in radio and Omni directional antenna, a Helmsman display for navigation, dual frequency depth sounder, a computer, a plotter, and a hydrographic system software for underwater data collection. An onboard generator is used to supply power for the equipment. The shore equipments include a GPS (Global Positioning System) receiver of same type. The Global Positioning system and the antenna are placed over a survey tripod. Due to vast area of sea, radio boosters are used to boost the signal strength. The Global Positioning System is connected to the satellites for receiving information.
The modern surveying relies more on the software than hardware. In shallow water areas echo sounders such as LIDAR (Light Detection and Ranging) and SONAR (Sound Navigation and Ranging) are used with equipments placed on Autonomous Underwater Vehicles (AUVs) and Unmanned Underwater Vehicles (UUVs) to conduct hydrographic survey. Data collected is stored and processed in computer for use in navigational charts, digital terrain model, topographic measurements and bathymetry. Data collected should be free from errors and is displayed as the charts which are made by using special CAD (Computer Aided Design) software such as AutoCAD. The use of hydrographic surveys is to measure the information related to maritime navigation, marine construction, dredging, offshore oil exploration/drilling related activities, maritime engineering, and harbor management. In these surveys a strong emphasis is given to find information related to shorelines, tides, currents, seabed depth and submerged obstruction that may affect the maritime navigation.
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Some of the key players in Hydrographic Equipment market are Valeport, Seafloor Systems, Kongsberg Maritime AS, Hydro International, Teledyne Marine and Raytheon Company.