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Computer-Interfaceable Side-Scan Sonar?

Consider the following side-scan sonar [Deepvision BR-ROV Sonar ( ROV Side Scan Sonar) – Aquabots-Shop], by DeepVision.

Is this sensor, or any side-scan that anyone has worked on, computer-interfaceable? That is to say, can a Raspberry Pi, or similar, decode the incoming scan data in real-time, to use for navigation and decision-making? The most I have ever been able to find on any side-scan sonar is “automatically detected by the <name of company/sonar> windows application”. Obviously, they are built to be connected, over a tether, to a top-side computer and viewed by a human. But can any of these sonar be decoded by an embedded computer for real-time processing?

Hi Derek:

To do this I think you’re going to have to look at sidescans that are meant for mounting on AUVs. Even with this, the classic AUV application is to gather a dataset while following a pre-programmed course, and post-process the data. So it will be interesting to see if you find any that actually work well if you want to interpret the data in real-time, line-by-line.

Here’s a typical AUV sidescan to get you started. They appear to have enough documentation available on-line that you should be able to see whether it will work for your application.


Hope this helps.



Do you by chance know/remember what the price tag was/is? The supplier’s contact page seems broken.

I don’t know, since I’ve never used this before. If I had to guess, it would be somewhere around $7K - $10K.

Hi @wolfmountain97, welcome to the forum :slight_smile:

@wholm makes some good points on where you’re most likely to find suitable products.

I would point out that from a requirements standpoint you need something you can communicate with. That requires having

  1. compatible ports/connections, and
  2. a way of communicating

Ports/connections are likely fine with a raspberry pi, or at least with a converter/adaptor in between to convert to a port/pins it can use.

Preferably communication is in the form of a well-documented API, and ideally one with provided libraries for using it (e.g. a side-scan sonar compatible equivalent of how our ping-python library allows interfacing with Ping Protocol devices).

If you’re interested in accessing an API for a sensor that doesn’t have clear documentation for one it may be worth contacting the company that makes it in case they’re willing to provide you with the relevant information. Alternatively it could be possible to reverse engineer the relevant communications (assuming they’re not encrypted), but that does require a bunch of extra effort on your part, as well as buying/renting the sensor in the first place so you have the access to try to decode the signals between it and the computer.

I wonder whether the StarFish OEM model could be used, with the SDK ?

The Starfish OEM products are certainly an option. I’ve not used the OEM versions before, but from what I’ve seen in photos their circuit board is essentially the same as the standalone unit, just slid out of the metal enclosure. I don’t think this would fit in a 4" enclosure, you’ll probably need a 6" enclosure to house it.

The various sidescans that are designed from the ground-up to be used with AUVs tend to be in more compact packages.

Also, note that the Starfish OEM units interface via USB, most of the other units I’ve seen use Ethernet as an interface.

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We have done quite a bit of work with both sonar and radar in regards to target ID, enhanced navigation, and collision avoidance.

It isn’t a trivial proposition, and there is nothing I am aware of that combines sensor output into navigable data - which is what I think you are really going for. We had to take on these sorts of integrations because we wouldn’t find anything COTS that would work.

The largest hurdle for us was finding a pathway into autopilot flight controllers or GCS that are not designed to be data centric. We had to make our own software for both sides.

So, yes it can be done. Any side scan array will work, as long as the data is discrete and not proprietary (which is the largest reverse engineering challenge). Some side scan is displayed as imagery only, some as a point cloud type of data set. Depends on the manufacturer and if you can get true ranging out.

We have been able to navigate a seawall, bridge footing, or a pipeline in the robotics definition of ‘line following’ using side-scan.

As well, we can drive a grid, find a target in the preset threshold range from the scan, and then conduct an action script to do something interesting - like do a POI flyby, create a waypoint and go to the target, or text the operator.

Let us know if you have an interesting application!


@wolfmountain97 The 2021 Deep Vision price list that I have says that the BlueROV2 complete package is €3,677 (google says that it converts to $4,166.96), but I don’t know if you could get the raw data or if it’s just for imaging. I suspect that it’s just for imaging. I agree that a product specifically designed for a AUV might be a better option as long as it can handle your depth requirements, since it’s more likely to be designed to support autonomous control software. A plus for that Deep Vision BlueROV2 unit (if it supports what you want) is that it’s designed for the BlueROV2 so the installation should be very easy.

I think it uses the same transducers of their towfish that I bought a few months ago: DeepVision DE680D sidescan "review"/experiences
I haven’t seen a way to get access to the raw data on mine, but I also haven’t looked for a way since it’s not something that I’m interested in.

They made some official video showing off the BlueROV2 sonar:

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