RLDA’s Innovative Kayak Surveyor

Although we use a number of larger vessels when performing various hydrographic surveys in deeper waters, we wanted a more effective way to maneuver in shallower bodies. As a result, we developed our Kayak Surveyor, given that kayaks are not only inexpensive and environmentally friendly, but can be used in a variety of depths.

As we designed and built our surveyor, we had a number of challenges to overcome. For one, we needed a vessel that could safely transport our sophisticated and costly GPS and compass systems without sinking or capsizing. For this reason, we chose a 13-foot, 10-inch Torque Ocean Kayak with a Minn Kota saltwater trolling motor, stabilizing pontoons, and a capacity of up to 475 pounds. We then installed two highly accurate Hemisphere GPS VS101 Series GP compass systems designed to account for the vessel’s pitch, roll and speed. A Teledyne Odom hydrographic echosounder was also added to record accurate depth data.

Protecting the equipment from the elements was another challenge as well. This involved enclosing the GPS receiver and echosounder components in an insulated case, then positioning it on a desk-like support, along with a laptop computer running HYPACK hydrographic survey and processing applications.
In order to sufficiently power these systems (including the trolling motor), we installed a high-capacity battery and a three-battery bank, as well as an independent power supply for the laptop. This has enabled us to conduct six to eight hours of survey work at a time.

Space was another consideration, given that all the equipment not only had to be fitted onto the small area and balanced accordingly, but expert positioning was also required to ensure easy operator accessibility.

As a result of these undertakings, we have successfully completed a number of projects that may not have been possible otherwise. This included the maritime police pier project, which involved navigating in numerous shallow areas and working in places that would have otherwise been difficult to reach. The retrofitted kayak surveyor not only enabled us to deliver certified survey maps in both hardcopy and digital formats, but the surveys were completed ahead of schedule. Given our ability to perform our services in shallow waters, the results provided to the client were complete, with no gaps.

This quick, light and efficient tool has definitely given RLDA an advantage in surveying previously unreachable areas. And because it only requires one operator, it allows us to be more competitive and cost effective.

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Over the years, contracts have included more than 250 projects in Puerto Rico and the Caribbean Basin for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers alone, while providing hydrographic, topographic, geodetic, property, boundary, subsurface utility, aerial, construction, GIS/GPS and photogrammetric survey services to a wide range of clients in the regions RLDA serves. Our firm is currently 8-A Business Certified under the SBA program.