The PLA’s Hydrographic Service is responsible for surveying 400 sq. miles of the River Thames and estuary, from the tidal limit in the west out to the southern North Sea, some 95 miles. Surveys are primarily conducted for safety of navigation, but a significant effort goes into conservancy and environmental monitoring surveys, as well as detailed engineering works. 

High resolution detailed sonar and LIDAR 3D models of the riverbed and port assets are acquired using traditional survey vessels and remotely controlled Unmanned Surface Vehicles (USV’s) which support structural engineering assessment, whilst hi-res aerial photogrammetry and LIDAR models aid environmental projects such as salt marsh restoration and foreshore plastic pollution monitoring.  

We are looking to present a field surveyors’ perspective on survey techniques serving interdisciplinary utilities, based on completed projects. With the mantra of ‘collect once use many times’ at the forefront of our minds, our presentation will explore challenges faced, lessons learnt, solutions identified and present delivered products using remote platforms and survey grade technologies. 

We will also briefly identify future remote platform projects at the PLA. The PLA is committed to net zero by 2040 or sooner. To meet this goal, ZEVI funding for a zero-emission hydrogen USV and refuelling station on the River Thames has been agreed. The PLA have partnered with SEA-KIT who will design and manufacture this sustainable hydrographic survey platform.  

Below are images of hi-res MBES and Vessel Based LIDAR on the Rochester Bridge and the Maritime Robotics ASV together with DJI Matrice 300 finally the ZEPHR, our ZEDVI funded 15m hydrogen powered USV in planning. 


Tom Ochman

Hydrographic surveyor, remote UAS pilot, involved in safety of navigation surveys on Thames and Medway waters, also in dredging projects, environmental monitoring, incident response and port asset inspection surveys in support of structural engineering assessment using hi-res aerial photo- and videography, photogrammetry, LIDAR and SLAM technology.


Tom Ford

I currently work as a Hydrographic Surveyor for the Port of London Authority (PLA), utilising a wide range of sensors to map above and below the waterline Working for a busy port authority, my time is currently spread both on the water conducting various types of surveys and in the office where I focus on completing, processing, and distributing routine bathymetric and engineering surveys. I enjoy working with high-resolution sensors to produce detailed products for various projects. In my spare time I enjoy restoring and riding classic scooters from the 1950’s/60’s.