In addition to pioneering oceanographic measurement techniques in the water, the FRF is a leader in developing novel ‘remote sensing’ technologies to monitor coastal environments from out of the water (i.e. no wetsuits, no seasickness)! From a fixed location on dry land, absent of pummeling waves and saltwater, remote sensors such as Lidars, Radars, and cameras can provide high frequency wave, current, depth, and beach elevation estimates for over thousands of points over thousands of feet. If deployed from an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) or satellite, this coverage can extend even farther. These tools can provide measurements more often and with more coverage than traditional in-water sensors with less time-consuming installation and risk to personnel. This is particularly true during storm events, the most disruptive and dynamic coastal conditions. Scientists and engineers at the FRF use this technology to answer tough science questions as well as develop innovative tools for US. Army coastal reconnaissance and USACE district beach project monitoring.
Lidars are instruments that rapidly emit and receive a series of safe laser pulses reflected off objects. With great precision, the instruments can measure distance of these objects (such as waves and beach shape) from the sensor and knowing the position of the sensor, their absolute position. The FRF houses the first continuously operating lidar system to measure beach elevation and nearshore wave parameters hourly with data processed and made public in near real-time. In addition, the FRF developed and operates CLARIS (Coastal Lidar and Radar Imaging System), a mobile Lidar system on top of a 4x4 Vehicle, which can scan over 40+Km of coastline in a few hours. The FRF is continuously evaluating new Lidar systems for coastal applications as this emerging technology develops. Access these data here.
We can infer many coastal processes with our eyes. For example, waves typically break over sandbars; when waves break, they produce white foam; thus, we can assume where we see persistent white foam there is wave breaking and potentially a sandbar! Using video imagery and principles of photogrammetry, FRF researchers in collaboration with Oregon State University have developed techniques to digitize and map images of the coast and extract important observations on coastal processes. For over 30 years, six cameras on top of the 100 ft Argus tower have monitored the FRF coastline providing shoreline position, depth, and current estimates hourly. Currently, FRF researchers are adapting this technology to for more ubiquitous video sources such as web, trail, and cellular phone cameras to monitor our coastlines across the country. Access these data here.
Unmanned Aerial Systems (UAS) are small aviation vehicles that can be piloted remotely and host a variety of sensors such as Lidars and Cameras. Flown over 1-3 kms, these systems can map beach elevation with high resolution with a flight time of less than 10 minutes and few personnel. FRF researchers are leaders in applying novel analysis techniques to UAS data, such estimating depths from
Nearshore bathymetry at the FRF is characterized by regular shore-parallel contours, a moderate slope, and barred surf zone (usually with an outer sandbar in water depth of about 4 m and inner bar in depths between 1 and 2 m). This pattern is interrupted in the immediate vicinity of the pier where a trough runs under much of the piers length, ening in a sour hole at the pier’s seaward end where depths are up to 3.0 m greater than the adjacent bottom. All data is publicly available on the CHL THREDDS Server (https://frfdataportal.erdc.dren.mil/).