The laboratory investigation of roughness in alluvial channels has led to the development of a special electronic device capable of mapping the streambed configuration under dynamic conditions. This electronic device employs an ultrasonic pulse-echo principle, similar to that of a fathometer, that utilizes microsecond techniques to give high accuracy in shallow depths. This instrument is known as the sonic depth sounder and was designed to cover a depth range of 0 to 4 feet with an accuracy of ? 0.5 percent. The sonic depth sounder is capable of operation at frequencies of 500, 1,000 and 2,000 kilocycles. The ultrasonic beam generated at the transducer is designed to give a minimum-diameter interrogating signal over the extended depth range. The information obtained from a sonic depth sounder is recorded on a strip-chart recorder. This permanent record allows an analysis to be made of the streambed configuration under different dynamic conditions.
The model 1024 sonic depth sounder was designed principally as a research instrument to meet laboratory needs. As such, it is somewhat limited in its application as a field instrument on large streams and rivers. The principles employed in this instrument, however, have many potentials for field applications such as the indirect measurement of bed load when the bed roughness is ripples and (or) dunes, depth measurement, determination of bed configuration, and determination of depth of scour around bridge piers and abutments. For field application a modification of the present system into a battery-operated lightweight instrument designed to operate at a depth range of 0 to 30 feet is possible and desirable.