Australia deploys laser airborne depth sounder to Papua New Guinea

The Royal Australian Navy has deployed a laser airborne depth sounder (LADS) flight to deployment to Rabaul, Papua New Guinea, for hydrographic surveys in the Kavieng and Rabaul regions.

The five week is carried out with the aim of providing improved data that will be used to update the existing nautical charts used by all vessels.

The survey will focus on the complex coastal passages at the northern end of New Ireland where Kavieng is the provisional capital. This work will help to identify passages and anchorages that can be used by coastal and larger vessels to access Kavieng and other coastal communities.

In addition, LADS will conduct coastal survey operations around Rabaul and the adjacent Duke of York islands to improve the quality of charting information for this important regional port. The priority survey areas were identified by the National Maritime Safety Authority (NMSA) of PNG, in consultation with the Australian Hydrographic Office.

“The Royal Australian Navy has responsibility for charting approximately one-eighth of the world’s surface,” Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Commander Mark Matthews said.

“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. Updated charts will also enable further development and tourism opportunities in the region.”

LADS flight will fly five sorties each week whilst deployed. During survey operations the aircraft will operate at around 1500 feet and will also fly over coastal areas adjacent the survey areas.

“The LADS 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 LADS Flight is particularly suited to complex coastal and dangerous reef areas where it would be less safe for our survey ships to operate.”

“This means we can bring the safety and efficiency of an airborne system to large and complex areas of the ocean.

The capability is based in Cairns and can survey more than 40 square kilometres per hour and measure depths greater than 50 metres in good conditions.

“This is the second survey conducted in Papua New Guinea waters in the last 12 months, with surveys conducted near Port Moresby and Batumata Point in late 2017,” Lieutenant Commander Matthews said.

The LADS flight operates a modified Dash 8 200 aircraft fitted with a laser system to measure the seafloor depths in coastal waters.

Photo: LADS flight Dash 8 200 aircraft on the runway in Rabaul, New Guinea. Photo: Royal Australian Navy