Design, Operation and Data Analysis of Side Scan Sonar Systems

Course Length:



Side scan sonar systems have become the standard for ocean floor mapping and have evolved from CW to broadband CHIRP and now interferometric systems are common.

This three-day course provides a comprehensive program on the design, operational considerations, analysis and post processing of side scan sonar data. Whether designing systems or conducting surveys, the course provides an in depth understanding of all aspects of the side scan sonar systems. The course builds from a basic history of side scan development into a comprehensive examination of theoretical and operational components of systems, data and surveys.

Each student will receive a copy of the Second Ed. Not in the Manual Guide to Sonar Image Interpretation by Vincent Capone (a $250 value) in addition to a complete set of lecture notes.

What you will learn:


  • Why is side scan sonar an effective mapping tool.
  • The effects of side scan design on performance.
  • Effects of frequency, beam angle and pulse length on sonar imagery.
  • Backscatter and target reflectivity.
  • Application of color and gain in the sonar image.
  • Detailed analysis of side scan imagery.
  • Operational components of side scan deployment.
  • Optimizing search patterns for efficiency and performance.
  • Post processing of sonar imagery



Course Outline:

  1. Introduction. Why is side scan sonar so effective? General development history of side scan sonar systems. What are the different designs of side scan sonar and how does design affect performance. CHIRP vs CW Sonar Systems. Hydrographic multibeam back scatter vs traditional side scan sonar.
  2. Beam Angle, Frequency, Pulse Length and Resolution. How do beam angle, pulse length and frequency affect resolution and performance? Is resolution consistent over the entire sonar image?
  3. Backscatter & Target Reflectivity. Why do varying sea floor types reflect sonar differently? What properties of a target cause reflectivity. What types of materials do not reflect the sonar pulse.
  4. Application of Gain, Display Color and Color Palettes. What types of Gain can be applied to the sonar signal and how does gain processing such as normalization affect sonar data. What does the color palette represent and how does the color palette affect display and interpretation of the data.
  5. Detailed Target Analysis. While side scan sonar is a display type data which most users find intuitive to read, detailed analysis requires an in depth knowledge of image formation. This section will provide a intensive look into target and shadow analysis.
  6. Anomalies, Noise and Thermoclines. Side scan sonar imagery often includes anomalies, reflections or ghost images that do not represent actual objects on the sea floor. This discussion will focus on the types of anomalies and how to recognize these false returns in the sonar data. Noise and thermoclines can also limit the range and quality of sonar data. We will discuss the causes and how to limit the sources of noise as well as the affects of differing speed of sound on the imagery.
  7. Data and Target Positioning. Sonar data is only as good as the geographic position of the target or final product. What are the best methods for obtaining accurate positioning and how to correct data when errors are present. What are the best methods for establishing target positions and requiring targets. How to apply target offsets to large debris fields.
  8. Sonar Search Patterns and Coverage. How to best design the most efficient and effective search patterns for side scan sonar operations. How to best match pulse rate and speed for 100% coverage.
  9. Sonar Processing and Processing Software. What are the best practices for converting sonar data into geotiffs and which softwares provide the best results.
  10. Introduction to Synthetic Aperture Sonar. Advanced side scan sonar systems will utilize synthetic aperture which provide range independent resolution. What are the basic principles of SAS image formation as well as advantages and disadvantages of SAS data.



REGISTRATION:  There is no obligation or payment required to enter the Registration for an actively scheduled course.   We understand that you may need approvals but please register as early as possible or contact us so we know of your interest in this course offering.

SCHEDULING:  If this course is not on the current schedule of open enrollment courses and you are interested in attending this or another course as an open enrollment, please contact us at (410)956-8805 or Please indicate the course name, number of students who wish to participate. and a preferred time frame. ATI typically schedules open enrollment courses with a 3-5 month lead-time.   To express your interest in an open enrollment course not on our current schedule, please email us at

For on-site pricing, you can use the request an on-site quote form, call us at (410)956-8805, or email us at


  • Vincent J. Capone, M.SC. has worked in the ocean science fields for over thirty years with a focus on remote sensing/survey operations. He has conducted sonar operations in depths of as little as 1 meter and down to over 3000m in every type of environment. Vince has conducted hundreds of side scan sonar operations for government agencies, law enforcement and commercial clients. He is a sonar instructor for the US Navy and has assisted in the recovery of debris from the space shuttle Coumbia as well as the recent recovery of Saturn V engines from the deep ocean Mr. Capone is the author of the DVD training program Second Ed. Not in the manual guide to Side Scan Sonar Image Interpretation

    Contact this instructor (please mention course name in the subject line)

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