Automated Processing of Sidescan and Bathymetry in SonarWiz

Chesapeake Times, Vol 9 | April 2022

What is Automated Processing?

Automated processing is processing without human intervention. The purpose is to quickly and efficiently process large amounts of data with minimal human interaction. For sonar data processing, automation promises to remove or reduce the need for humans to perform routine and repetitive tasks. Automation is also an important component of semi- or fully-autonomous on-board data collection systems that, by design, do not have human operators.

In SonarWiz, we have addressed each of these two automation roles in recent releases of the program. First, sidescan and bathymetry each have the option to process files on import. When this mode is enabled, the user can apply a built-in workflow which will bottom track, apply signal processing, and export images automatically. Second, SonarWiz can be configured to monitor a data directory and automatically import, process and export any files which are detected. When these two modes are enabled together, SonarWiz runs completely autonomously and requires no human interaction.

Schematic workflow where a common cloud storage provider is used to connect the survey platform with a SonarWiz Processing workstation.

When SonarWiz is configured to import and process data files automatically, there is no reason that the workstation needs to be hosted on the survey platform. If sufficient bandwidth is available, raw sonar files can be transferred from the survey platform to a cloud storage provider using the file synchronization utilities of the provider. The storage provider then transfers the sonar data to the processing machine. The processing machine can be an Azure or AWS instance for full cloud processing or a local workstation. SonarWiz monitors a designated directory on the workstation and processes any new data as it arrives.

Configuring Automated Processing
In SonarWiz 7.09.02, the automated processing settings are accessed from the Post Processing > Settings Menu. There you will find wizards that will walk you through configuring automatic processing settings for bathymetry and sidescan. In either case, the workflow is fixed and consists of the basic operations that would normally need to be done manually (Figure 2). You just check which operations you want to perform and adjust the settings as needed.

Automatic processing workflows for sidescan and bathymetry

Once configured, SonarWiz will automatically process any sidescan or bathymetry file that is imported into the program. At this point, import is still a manual process.

Configuring Directory Monitoring
To fully automate SonarWiz, you need to enable Auto Import. From the Post Processing menu select Import > Auto Import Files and Click Enable Auto Import. This locks the SonarWiz user interface and SonarWiz begins to monitor the selected folder for new bathymetry or sidescan files to process (Figure 3).

The SonarWiz User Interface is locked during auto import operations

The import monitoring is smart. It will indicate if a file has been detected and log the results of successful or unsuccessful attempts to import the data set. If a file import is unsuccessful, the utility continues to monitor for new files so the workflow is not interrupted. Later, a user can review the status of imported files and troubleshoot files that failed to import into the project.

When Automated Processing and Automatic Import are used together, SonarWiz can automatically process data in near real time regardless of the acquisition system. Used in conjunction with cloud storage providers and possibly Amazon or Microsoft virtual machines, SonarWiz data processing can fit into a remote processing workflow that reduces the need to put data processors on the collection platform.