• bathymetric LiDAR;
  • signal processing;
  • principal components analysis;
  • precision;
  • minimum depth;
  • coastal waters


Airborne light detection and ranging (LiDAR) bathymetry appears to be a useful technology for bed topography mapping of non-navigable areas, offering high data density and a high acquisition rate. However, few studies have focused on continental waters, in particular, on very shallow waters (<2 m) where it is difficult to extract the surface and bottom positions that are typically mixed in the green LiDAR signal. This paper proposes two new processing methods for depth extraction based on the use of different LiDAR signals [green, near-infrared (NIR), Raman] of the SHOALS-1000T sensor. They have been tested on a very shallow coastal area (Golfe du Morbihan, France) as an analogy to very shallow rivers. The first method is based on a combination of mathematical and heuristic methods using the green and the NIR LiDAR signals to cross validate the information delivered by each signal. The second method extracts water depths from the Raman signal using statistical methods such as principal components analysis (PCA) and classification and regression tree (CART) analysis. The obtained results are then compared to the reference depths, and the performances of the different methods, as well as their advantages/disadvantages are evaluated. The green/NIR method supplies 42% more points compared to the operator process, with an equivalent mean error (−4·2 cm verusu −4·5 cm) and a smaller standard deviation (25·3 cm verusu 33·5 cm). The Raman processing method provides very scattered results (standard deviation of 40·3 cm) with the lowest mean error (−3·1 cm) and 40% more points. The minimum detectable depth is also improved by the two presented methods, being around 1 m for the green/NIR approach and 0·5 m for the statistical approach, compared to 1·5 m for the data processed by the operator. Despite its ability to measure other parameters like water temperature, the Raman method needed a large amount of reference data to provide reliable depth measurements, as opposed to the green/NIR method. Copyright © 2010 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.