The Royal Australian Navy has deployed its Laser Airborne Depth Sounder (LADS) Flight to Invercargill in New Zealand, to undertake survey operations over Macquarie Island, a 34km long World Heritage listed island that lies approximately halfway between Australia and Antarctica. The aim of the survey is to improve knowledge of potential dangers to ships visiting the island, with a focus on the area surrounding the station itself.
Macquarie Island is part of Tasmania and hosts an Australian Antarctic Division research station.
The LADS aircraft is a modified Dash 8-200 fitted with a laser system to measure the sea floor depths in coastal waters.
Executive Officer, Lieutenant Cheyne Colley, said the improved data will be used to update the existing nautical charts used by all vessels navigating in this sensitive area.
The Royal Australian Navy has responsibility for charting approximately one-eighth of the world’s surface, including much of the Southern Ocean. The charts that are updated from the data captured by LADS will ensure safer navigation and greater environmental protection by reducing the risk of a marine accident,
…Lieutenant Colley said.
The LADS flight will fly as many as eight sorties from Invercargill, with each sortie lasting up to seven hours. When conducting survey, the aircraft will fly at approximately 600 metres, with the LASER emitting through a special window in the belly of the aircraft.
The unit is unique to any Navy in the world. The technology was developed in Australia and uses a scanning laser which is mounted in the aircraft to collect hydrographic survey data and depth information. The survey system employed by the LADS Flight is particularly suited to coastal and dangerous reef areas where it would be less safe for our survey ships to operate,
…Lieutenant Colley added.
The LADS Flight is based in Cairns and can survey more than 40 square kilometres per hour and depth of more than 50 metres in good conditions.