International Dredging Review

International Dredging Review

After 20 years operating installing trouble-shooting and repairing hydrographic survey equipment Michael Higgs through Higgs Hydrographic Tek has begun a new track of helping several companies adapt and create new equipment to fill niches in the industry. He has signed as sales representative for a number of companies and is helping several of them to develop and modify their equipment for the dredging and shallow water hydrographic survey industries.

Starting in October 2012 he began signing contracts with companies whose products he would be able to sell and support and as of the end of February had seven vendors.

One project is his work with Unabara a new company headquartered in Gretna Louisiana.

Higgs worked with Unabara during the development of a single beam hydrographic system with no topside instrumentation. The HydroBook Hydrographic Echo Sounder consists only of a Below Surface Unit (BSU) mounted under the boat or dredge and a 10-meter cable connected to a laptop on board. The BSU has two communication ports – COM 1 to communicate with the HydroBook software in the PC and COM 2 to provide depth information in standard industry formats. The transducer can operate in depths as shallow as a tenth of a meter or four inches.

Users can choose operating frequencies of 180 kHz through 280 kHz with corresponding transducer beam widths.

Higgs explained that he and the design team has had success at identifying bottom hardness using the HydroBook. Asked if the application uses the same concept Odom uses in its Roxanne system which pioneered the concept of classifying bottom features through sonar signals Higgs said that while both systems use bottom loss return to analyze the signals Roxanne was designed to provide a vast array of bottom information while the HydroBook simply designates hard or soft bottom.

A test on oyster beds was successful where the oyster beds registered as hard bottom and the surrounding area as soft bottom. This can be used to help oyster farmers to accurately map oyster beds.

Another use will be to map seagrass beds in Florida where the grass registers as soft and other areas as hard.


Unabara also sells its HydroBar for calibrating echosounders. This unit combines a real-time sound velocimeter with a sonar target running on a PC in the background of HYPACK® HydroPro or other software. The user plugs the HydroBar’s cable termination into the USB port and no external wiring or power is required.

Using an integral depth sensor HydroBar displays and records sound velocity and temperature versus depth and stores it in a .VEL file for direct input into Hypack.

In BAR CHECK mode the software menu guides the user through simple steps to perform a bar check. Data are stored in the PC which calculates the sound velocity at each bar depth independent of the sound velocimeter. The computed average sound velocity over the water column is provided along with computed transducer depth (draft) and system error/index.

Higgs signed as U.S. rep for a Norwegian excavator guidance system called DigPilot. The system aids land excavators in digging precise grades trenches and profiles and can be installed by the customer. In the plans is a dredging crossover version of this product which Higgs will help to develop.

Dutch company CTS Viking has given Higgs the rights to sell its software and hardware in the USA.

“CTS Viking has hydrographic survey software as well as dredging software and related sensors” Higgs told IDR. “Unlike some of the other companies that sell software CTS Viking also manufactures much of the needed hardware and has a completely interfaced package ready for the customer depending on the type of dredge. They have developed all of these themselves in-house” he said.

He is also representing Septentrio and Altus to the marine market both of whom who have agreements with Terrastar D and both can receive the Terrastar D corrections directly giving Higgs the option of including a Terrastar D subscription in a sale if the customer requires it.

Septentrio and Altus sell satellite navigation receivers. Terrastar D is a precise positioning GNSS augmentation service based around precise point positioning (PPP) techniques using both GPS and GLONASS.


Michael Higgs has been working in the hydrographic survey industry since 1991 when he went to work for the U.S. Navy Oceanographic Office repairing and installing survey systems on Navy ships. During his 10 years with the Navy he worked in more than 50 countries installing and repairing Del Norte transponders Trimble 4000 DGPS/RTK systems Pacific Crest radio modems Valeport tide gauges Odom DF-3200 Echotracs Klein sidescan and subbottom systems and EdgeTech sidescan systems among others.

In 2001 he attended a three-month International Hydrographic Management and Engineering Program (IHMEP) training at the Stennis Space Center Mississippi to become a Category B hydrographic surveyor and immediately went to Guam to do sidescan and single beam surveying with the Navy’s Fleet Survey Team for use by the U.S. Navy Fleet Guam.

There followed several more years of work and training with the Navy and he changed jobs in 2002 to Navy physical scientist following which he did hydrographic surveying and digital nautical chart production.

In September 2004 he left the Navy to work for Measutronics where he installed a dredging system and Hypack system for Weeks Marine in Tampa Florida and installed other systems on Manson Construction and Cavache dredges.
In January 2005 he gave instruction and training to the University of New Hampshire on its survey vessel for the Applanix POS-MV and Pacific Crest radio modems Odom Hydrotrac sounder and Hypack software.

From January through March 2006 he worked for Etrac to install a survey system and data collection of hydrographic survey data for the Port of Seattle. For this project he used the Reson 9001 system Trimble RTK Pacific Crest radio modems and Quinsy software interfaced with Hypack.


In June 2006 Higgs installed DREDGEPACK® survey hardware and the Corps of Engineers silent inspector system on Manson’s dredge Glenn Edwards. Also that year he installed a hydrographic survey interface system on the dredge R.S. Weeks and performed techincal support and repair to its dredge system Odom single beam sounder Digibar and Trimble RTK systems.

In January 2007 he installed barge tracking systems on several Dutra barges in San Francisco including Maxstram radio modems Garmin GPS and Etrac hardware and software.

In 2007 as Hydrographic Interfacing and GPS Guidance Solutions (HIGGS LLC) he provided technical consulting for a BP pipeline survey in the Gulf of Mexico and also installed dredge navigation systems and hydrographic survey systems for several dredging companies.

In August 2008 RESON hired him to provide hydrographic survey support and training for the company’s navigation software and technical support and training to Reson companies around the world.

During his four years with Reson he worked in many countries including Sri Lanka China Peru India Guatamala Honduras Russia Chile Italy Brazil Mexico Costa Rica Abu Dhabi and Iceland as well as the United States installing entire survey systems that included Reson’s SeaBat multibeam systems.

In January 2012 he started his existing company Higgs Hydrographic TEK LLC to provide training and technical support for hydrographic surveys as well as installation and training for installation of systems on survey vessels. That year he provided multibeam technical support to the University of Brazil and several hydrographic companies in the United States and collected multibam data via RPV on the PEMEX pipeline processing the data using CARIS HIPS/SIPS.

Higgs has an associates degree in electronics technology from Pearl River Community College in Poplarville Mississippi as well as hundreds of hours of training in an array of systems including Odom Echotrac Odom Roxanne multibeam Trimble geodetic Caris GIS Caris HIPS and SIPS Geodas Caris DOM Fledermaus Reson sonar operator and repair VisualSoft and HUET safety training for offshore among others.