Laser Airborne Depth Sounder Flight RAN

The Laser Airborne Depth Sounder (LADS) Flight is a unit of the Royal Australian Navy. Unlike the rest of the flying units of the RAN, it is not controlled by the Fleet Air Arm from HMAS Albatross, but instead falls under the operational control of the Australian Hydrographic Service at HMAS Cairns,[1] providing a platform for the operation of the Laser airborne depth sounder system.[2]

Laser Airborne Depth Sounder Flight RAN
Ship's badge for LADS Flight
Country Australia
BranchRoyal Australian Navy
RoleHydrographic Survey
SizeOne flight
Part ofAustralian Hydrographic Service
AirbaseCairns Airport, Queensland
Motto(s)Soaring to New Depths
Aircraft flown
ReconnaissanceBombardier Dash 8-200


In the 1970s, the Royal Australian Navy's Hydrographic Service was still limited in its ability to survey the vastness of Australia's coastal waters, and was still producing charts on areas where surveying was incomplete or had not even taken place.[3] As a consequence, the RAN began to search for a way of effectively surveying the Australian coastline from the air, which led to the development of the Laser Airborne Depth Sounder system by the Defence Science and Technology Organisation, a part of the Australian Department of Defence, with trials beginning in 1977.[4] In 1992, a new unit was formed to operate the system, the Laser Airborne Depth Sounder Flight, with the LADS system fitted to a highly modified Fokker F27 aircraft.[2] This aircraft was subsequently replaced in 2009 by a modified Bombardier Dash 8.


The LADS Flight is a joint operation between the Australian Hydrographic Service and the Fugro LADS Corporation, part of Fugro a Dutch corporation, which also runs hydrographic operations for the private sector.[5] The aircraft itself is owned by the Fugro LADS Corporation, which also provides the flight crews and system maintenance technicians. Aircraft engineers come from the civilian contractor, Cobham Aviation Services Australia, while the hydrographic specialists are serving members of the RAN.[2] The flight is stationed at Cairns in the far north of Queensland, but can be deployed to other locations for up to three months at a time; the aircraft has an operational endurance of up to seven hours for operations close to its base, reducing to four hours on station at a distance of up to 300 nautical miles.[3]

In December 2016, the aircraft deployed to the South Island of New Zealand to assist in surveying the coast following the Kaikoura earthquake.[6]


  1. "HMAS Cairns". Royal Australian Navy. Retrieved 23 April 2014.
  2. "Laser Airborne Depth Sounder". Royal Australian Navy. Retrieved 23 April 2014.
  3. "LADS II (laser airborne depth sounder)". Australian Hydrographic Office. Retrieved 26 June 2011.
  4. Slade, in Oldham, 100 Years of the Royal Australian Navy, p. 171
  5. "Fugro acquires Tenix LADS". Media release. Fugro NV. 8 June 2009.
  6. "Navy LADS Dash 8 deploys to New Zealand". Australian Aviation. 1 December 2016.


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