Date of Award

Spring 1-1-2019

Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science (MS)


Aerospace Engineering Sciences

First Advisor

Jeffrey P. Thayer

Second Advisor

Robert S. Nerem

Third Advisor

Nisar R. Ahmed


Airborne lidar bathymetry, or ALB, is an active remote sensing technique capable of filling the need for topographical maps of coastal regions and other regions of shallow water. Modern ALB systems can quickly generate expansive, accurate, and high-resolution bathymetric point clouds. One of the main remaining factors limiting these systems is the effect of waves on the water surface.

This thesis focuses on the development of a comprehensive model to describe interaction between the ocean surface and a bathymetric lidar. The model is able to simulate received lidar signals for varying surface conditions and angles of incidence. From this, uncertainties and errors in the desired lidar measurements of depth, surface height, and horizontal position can be better understood. It is shown that surface waves are a significant source of error for ALB measurements and can be the dominating source of uncertainty in the case of large waves or a large angle of incidence. Furthermore, the ability of an ALB system to extract wave information such as significant wave height is investigated and shown to be possible.