Navy’s Laser Airborne Depth Sounder (LADS) Flight has deployed to Tasmania to survey coastal waters from King Island to Launceston.
The Flight’s Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Mark Matthews, said the survey will provide improved data that will be used to update the existing nautical charts used by civilian and military vessels.
“The Royal Australian Navy is responsible for charting approximately one-eighth of the world’s surface,” Lieutenant Commander Matthews said.
“The Navy is currently recharting parts of the Bass Strait with survey ship HMAS Leeuwin undertaking survey operations at sea and the Depth Sounder Flight mapping the coastline and water off northern Tasmania.
“The charts that are updated from the data captured by the Flight will ensure safer navigation and greater environmental protection by reducing the risk of a marine accident.”
The Flight will be airborne 35 hours each week until 31 March, flying out of Launceston mostly during the afternoon and early evenings.
The missions will see the aircraft fly at an altitude of around 500 metres in lines generally parallel to the coast, and may also fly over coastal areas when surveying the very shallow waters.
“The unit is unique to any Navy in the world. The system was developed in Australia and uses a scanning laser mounted in the aircraft to collect hydrographic survey data and depth information,” Lieutenant Commander Matthews said.
“The system is particularly suited to coastal and dangerous reef areas where it would be less safe for our survey ships to operate."
A prime example of this was the recent deployment to New Zealand to survey parts of its coastline following the recent earthquakes. The Flight provided the necessary information for ships to safely navigate areas where the seabed had moved substantially.
“The team has spent much of its life in the Great Barrier and the Coral Sea, but is now expanding its operations, which means we can bring the safety and efficiency of an airborne system to larger and more complex areas of the ocean," he said.
The modified Dash 8 aircraft is based in Cairns and can survey more than 40 square kilometres per hour, and reach depths of up to 80 metres in good conditions.
“This is an area equivalent to the reach of six survey ships,” Lieutenant Commander Matthews said.
The data collected during the survey in Tasmania will be reflected on the chart amendments issued in April and fully revised charts later in the year.
Due to the nature of the operations, some noise may be experienced by residents in the area. This will be minimised wherever possible.