Customer Spotlight: Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California San Diego


Scripps Institution of Oceanography at University of California San Diego is one of the oldest, largest, and most important centers for ocean, earth, and atmospheric science research in the world.

The Scripps mission is to seek, teach, and communicate scientific understanding of the oceans, atmosphere, Earth, and other planets for the benefit of society and the environment.

Scripps scientists and engineers are using the RIEGL VMZ-2000 hybrid mobile laser mapping system to study coastal erosion.  The VMZ-2000 was selected for high performance and good value, and is performing up to expectations.

As one might guess from the “CAUTION: Falling Rocks” signs posted on the cliffs in the footage shown above, the coastal zone is a dynamic system which can experience rapid and significant morphological change. Scripps researcher Dr. Adam Young’s weekly LiDAR surveys in Del Mar, during an unusually rainy season,  captured several small landslides in three dimensions.

Scientists will use these data sets to better understand coastal erosion and hope to answer questions such as how rainfall and large surf events affect cliff failures.

The Scripps team will be able to monitor larger stretches of the Southern California coastline more completely with the sophisticated technology contained in their new RIEGL VMZ-2000.  For example, much of the data for sand movement studies collected over the last 15 years used an ATV outfitted with a Real-Time Kinematic GPS and PC.  This technique can record a single “breadcrumb trail” of points as the operator drives back and forth along the sand from the cliff to the water’s edge, a small fraction of the information provided by LiDAR.


Surveying the beach with LiDAR, Scripps will be able to capture the entire beach, including the cliffs, in just a few passes, increasing the amount of data collected by a few orders of magnitude, in a shorter amount of time.

With predicted sea level rise in the coming decades, the Scripps CCS team will have their work cut out for them as coastal communities work to protect their public beaches and plan management of infrastructure as the coastline changes.

You can learn more about Scripps and their various projects here!