Autonomously mapping shallow water environments under and above the water surface

© Fraunhofer IOSB
The USV autonomously maneuvers around an inflatable boat that has run aground. The map shows the route planned for mapping (yellow), the actual route (red) and the evasive maneuver planned in real time (green).
© Fraunhofer IOSB
3D model of a surface structure
© Fraunhofer IOSB
3D map of the river bed


The precise surveying of water bodies such as rivers or quarry ponds is a challenging task. Authorities and private harbor operators are required to provide an inventory of up-to-date maps such as riverbeds or harbor facilities. Usually, a large number of mapping vessels and trained personnel are required for this task. However, this is costly, so in many cases mapping is done too infrequently. A solution to this is offered by autonomous surface vessels (ASVs), which significantly reduce costs and the need for on-board personnel.

Project outcome

As part of a three-year in-house research project, Fraunhofer IOSB has developed an autonomous surface vessel that is capable of autonomously surveying a body of water to generate an associated 3D map. For this purpose, both the riverbed is recorded by means of sonar and shore areas and overwater structures by means of optical systems. The information obtained in this way is then fused and transferred into a joint 3D model of the surrounding area.

Exemplary use cases

The knowledge gained from the project can be applied in a variety of ways. Watercraft can be used for passenger and freight transport on the high seas, on inland waterways or for logistics chains involving waterways. This also includes the excavation of waterways and the autonomous measurement of navigation channels.

Artificial Intelligence and Autonomous Systems business unit

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Project details

Self-funded technology development project as part of the Energy, Environmental and Security Systems business unit

Project duration: 2019-2021

Participating departments:

Interactive Analysis and Diagnosis (IAD)

Interoperability and Assistance Systems (IAS)

Systems for Measurement, Control and Diagnosis (MRD)

Video Exploitation Systems (VID)

Water and Mobile Systems (WMS)