Operation Laser Line 2006

The laser line scan (LLS) systems utilize a sweeping blue-green laser to reflect light across the seafloor to generate a gray-scale image similar to a black and white photograph. Mapping of coral reefs has been identified as one of the first and most important steps needed to address the increasing decline of the world's coral reefs. Photography or direct observation is required to identify corals and other coral reef community organisms, but only small areas can be covered with these techniques.

Laser line scanning has been suggested as an alternative method that can provide high-resolution imagery of the seafloor over a much wider area than conventional photography. Laser line scan (LLS) systems sweep a blue-green laser across the bottom and uses the reflected light to generate a gray-scale image of the seafloor that is similar to a black and white photography.

The NOAA Pacific Island Fisheries Science Center, in collaboration with partners from the NOAA Office of Ocean Exploration, the Hawaii Undersea Research Laboratory, the Hawaii Division of Aquatic Resources and the UH Botany Department will embark on a 6-day research cruise from November 8 - 13, 2006.The only commercially-available LLS system in the world will be deployed at a handful of sites off the coast of Maui.

Expedition survey targets include beds of commercially-harvested black coral, a recently-discovered deep hard coral reef, an important nursery area and fishing site for commercially-harvested groundfish, deep algae beds, and a WWII aircraft wreck. This wide range of targets will enable us to thoroughly evaluate LLS technology, and hopefully provide the impetus to design less expensive and more capable LLS systems to meet management and research needs in coral reef ecosystems.

Mission Facts

* Although laser line scan (LLS) systems have been in existence for decades, there is only one system in the world, Scientific Applications International Corporation's Northrop-Grumman SM-2000, which is commercially available.

* LLS sends and receives the laser light by bouncing it off of two separate four-sided, pyramid-shaped rotating mirrors.

* The entire LLS system requires two to three 20 ft shipping containers to hold all the equipment needed to install it on a research or survey vessel.