Commercial Optical and Acoustic Sensor Performances under Varying Turbidity, Illumination, and Target Distances

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Acoustic and optical sensing modalities represent two of the primary sensing methods within underwater environments, and both have been researched extensively in previous works. Acoustic sensing is the premier method due to its high transmissivity in water and its relative immunity to environmental factors such as water clarity. Optical sensing is, however, valuable for many operational and inspection tasks and is readily understood by human operators. In this work, we quantify and compare the operational characteristics and environmental effects of turbidity and illumination on two commercial-off-the-shelf sensors and an additional augmented optical method, including: a high-frequency, forward-looking inspection sonar, a stereo camera with built-in stereo depth estimation, and color imaging, where a laser has been added for distance triangulation. The sensors have been compared in a controlled underwater environment with known target objects to ascertain quantitative operation performance, and it is shown that optical stereo depth estimation and laser triangulation operate satisfactorily at low and medium turbidites up to a distance of approximately one meter, with an error below 2 cm and 12 cm, respectively; acoustic measurements are almost completely unaffected up to two meters under high turbidity, with an error below 5 cm. Moreover, the stereo vision algorithm is slightly more robust than laser-line triangulation across turbidity and lighting conditions. Future work will concern the improvement of the stereo reconstruction and laser triangulation by algorithm enhancement and the fusion of the two sensing modalities.

Original languageEnglish
Article number6575
Issue number14
Number of pages23
Publication statusPublished - 21 Jul 2023


  • acoustic sensors
  • illumination
  • imaging sensors
  • laser triangulation
  • multiple-sensor systems
  • sensor testing and evaluation
  • sonar measurements
  • stereo vision
  • turbidity


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