Many of the 25,000 miles of inland, intracoastal, and coastal waterways that link thousands of ports and harbours in the U.S. have never been completely surveyed. In those areas that have been surveyed, approximately half of the depth sounding data shown on U.S. nautical charts are from before 1940, collected by antiquated leadline soundings and wire drags. To survey the 500,000 square nautical miles of the most navigationally significant waters would require over 100 years based on the current capacity of governmental agencies and using modern conventional methods.
Crowdsourcing data can significantly enhance the accuracy and efficiency of standard hydrographic surveying efforts conducted primarily by governmental entities. Crowdsourced data will often be the only data available in an area because charting authorities may not have the resources or mandate to conduct surveys. While traditional surveys are done infrequently, crowdsourced data is being collected all the time and can provide up-to-date information. When crowdsourced data indicates areas of concern, authorities can prioritize those areas thus maximizing efficiency by saving valuable ship time and the associated resources.
In 2010, SURVICE Engineering started testing ARGUS, a system that can use recreational and commercial vessels for the collection and processing of crowdsourced bathymetry data. ARGUS interfaces with existing GPS and depth sounding equipment on the vessels, and uses wireless technology (i.e. WiFi, cellular, and satellite) for automatic offloading to a centralized server. The system works with CARIS Bathy DataBASE and Spatial Fusion Enterprise for data correction, processing, managing and distributing via the internet. To date, ARGUS pilot testing has processed more than 70 million crowdsourced bathymetry soundings.