Alpine Airborne Hydro Mapping

The research project Alpine Hydro Airborne Mapping (AAHM) intends to investigate the underwater geometry of alpine rivers with the help of an advanced, airplane bound laser technology. The newly developed green laser is capable to penetrate water and thus enables the survey of riverbeds with an up to now unprecedented precision. AAHM is funded by the Austrian Research Promotion Agency (FFG) within the frame of the Austrian competence centre program COMET-K. It consists of a consortium of eleven partners.
Project duration:    03.2013 - 03.2016    
Project budget:      approx. 1.4 Mio. Euro    



Project coordination

Project management      
Univ.-Prof. Dr.-Ing. habil. Markus Aufleger Dipl.-Ing. Valerie Neisch  
Tel.: +43 512 507 62200 Tel.: +43 512 507 62251  


University of Innsbruck
Unit of Hydraulic Engineering
Technikerstraße 13
6020 Innsbruck, Austria

Project overview

In alpine and subalpine catchments, complex hydraulic and fluviomorphologic processes take place. For this reason, information on water availability and sediment transport are required to utilise environmentally friendly alpine water resources and to protect human infrastructure. Conventionally, such data is collected with time-consuming, cost-intensive and sometimes environmentally harmful methods, such as manual soundings (on foot or by boat) or sonar measurements. Soundings are also limited in their information density (profiles at intervals of several hundred meters). Sonar measurements are clearly restricted, especially in shallow water bodies and generally in smaller streams.

Alpine Airborne Hydromapping (AAHM), however, provides an airborne, non-contact method to collect information on river shape and texture with a high spatial resolution. The system is based on a specially designed green laser, which is able to penetrate water in contrast to conventional red lasers. Therewith, the underwater geometry of rivers, streams and lakes can be measured to a depth of several meters.

The laser point cloud is filtered to enable a classification of riverbed, vegetation, anthropogenic structures and water levels. Afterwards, high-resolution digital terrain models are created, which achieve a height accuracy of about 5 to 10 centimetres and a density of up to 40 points per square meter. By the repeated aerial survey of a project area at different times, bed load relocations can be observed and quantified that were caused by extreme events.

The newly available data from AAHM will lead to a better understanding of hydraulic processes, sediment transport and surface roughness of waters in alpine regions. In addition, the data will lead to a significant improvement in the numerical modelling of hydraulic and sediment transport-related processes.

The research project AAHM is performed by the consortium leader “Unit of Hydraulic Engineering” (University of Innsbruck) with two scientific partners and 8 other industrial partners and power supply companies.

The involved scientific partners are the “Unit of Surveying and Geoinformation” (University of Innsbruck) and the “Department of Geodesy and Geoinformation” (Vienna University of Technology). The industrial partners comprise the manufacturer of laser scanners RIEGL LASER MEASUREMENT SYSTEMS, a spin-off company of the University of Innsbruck (Airborne Mapping Hydro GmbH) and REVITAL Integrative Nature Spatial Planning GmbH. The power supply companies include E.ON Kraftwerke GmbH, TIWAG - Tiroler Wasserkraft AG, Verbund Hydro Power AG, Innsbrucker Kommunalbetriebe Aktiengesellschaft and Bayerische Elektrizitätswerke GmbH.


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