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New government study uses lidar for snowpack depth mapping in the Canadian Rockies

Vaughan, Ontario, CANADA – June 11, 2024– Teledyne Geospatial is pleased to announce lidar data gathered by the Optech Galaxy system of the Canadian Rockies is being used to gain critical insights   related to landcover, snowpack, and, most importantly, water balance on Alberta’s Eastern Slopes.

Headed by University of Lethbridge’s principal investigator Dr. Chris Hopkinson, the Government of Alberta sponsored project will contribute significantly towards understanding and managing water resources in Alberta’s mountainous regions. The snowpack in the mountains is crucial for water availability in Alberta. It directly impacts irrigation for agriculture and supports various cities. This research will not only contribute to scientific knowledge but will also explore the use of aerial lidar as an operational tool in resource monitoring, flow forecasting, and drought predictions. By understanding snowpack dynamics and water availability, Alberta’s government can develop more sustainable water management practices, preserve ecosystems, support wildlife habitats, and ensure a resilient water supply for future generations.

Snow map reveals up to ~2m depth across the eastern slopes (left), area of interest includes steep terrain, snow valleys and dense vegetation (center) and Galaxy Onboard navigation interface showing data transects (right)

“Airborne lidar has proved to be a viable method of snowpack depth mapping, sampling and unit imputation over forested and mountain environments,” said Dr. Chris Hopkinson. “Lidar data, when processed with terrain information, land cover data and satellite imagery, allows for continuous snow depth imputations. This is crucial for calculating sub-basin-scale snow water equivalent (SWE), which informs water availability and directs management strategies, particularly in the emerging drought situation in Alberta this year.”

The Optech Galaxy was able to cover 250 km² in just one hour, with hundreds of millions of individual measurements resulting in a high-fidelity 3D model of the mountain slopes. In comparison, the traditional manual method would have gathered only a handful of points and covered no more than a 3 km2 in the same time frame. The lidar approach allowed for extensive coverage, while providing rich data suitable for large-scale scientific studies.

Malek Singer, Airborne Product Manager, Teledyne Geospatial, commented: “The adage ‘You cannot manage what you do not measure’, cannot be truer in this innovative application. Downstream communities in Canada and around the world rely on snowpacks as a crucial source of water. We are proud to support Dr. Hopkinson and the Government of Alberta in this endeavor and are committed to developing more efficient data-collection tools like the Galaxy and Galaxy Onboard which provide analysis-ready-data faster than any available alternative.”



Teledyne Geospatial unifies the hardware and software expertise of both Teledyne CARIS and Teledyne Optech. The new group provides customers with innovative integrated solutions. Offerings include turnkey systems, lidar and sonar integrated workflows and a range of systems and solutions that support holistic, precision data collection.


For media enquiries, please contact:
Jennifer Parham
[email protected]

Published 2024-06-11

Teledyne’s Optech Galaxy deployed to assess water resources in Alberta’s Eastern Slopes amid ongoing drought concerns due to climate change

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