Discharge - ADCP comparison

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This information is supposed to help you in comparing the currently available ADCPs (Acoustic Doppler Current Profilers). It was generated in Sep, 2013. Please feel free correct and to update.


To our knowledge, ADCPs are currently offered by only three companies: Ott, SonTek and RDI/Teledyne. Whereas Ott uses Nortek-sensors and fits them into their system, SonTek and RDI include produce their own sensors.

An ADCP-system consists of

  • the sensor - which does the actual measurements
  • the platform - a small board or raft on which the sensor is mounted (can be omitted if the ADCP is to be operated from an ordinary boat)
  • the communication unit - ensures the data transfer between the control unit and the sensor
  • control unit - usually a laptop or PDA with special software
  • GPS-system - optional, may include dGPS base station

SonTek and RDI/Teledyne let you combine these components more or less freely; for Ott, the system is premanufactured and cannot be altered by the user.

Things to consider:

  • intended range of river depths: The sensors differ considerably in their range. Especially measuring shallow flow can be problematic.
  • platform: Do you want to operate the ADCP from a small tethered boat, remotely controlled boat, an ordinary one or be flexible?
  • bottom tracking vs. GPS: bottom tracking determines the sensors position RELATIVE to the river bed (precise and fast; problematic with great depths or moving bed). GPS uses satellites for getting ABSOLUTE positions (no problem with moving beds; GPS reception is often poor down in the valley)
  • GPS, dGPS, GNSS, RTK: What is sold as "dGPS" is often only a SBAS-corrected GPS (only rover, no base). dGPS with postprocessing may not be possible. RTK provides high real time accuracy, but requires a base station. Systems supporting other positioning standards (GLONASS, Galileo) may provide better fix in marginal locations.
  • integration of existing equipment (PDA, GPS): May not be easily possible, make sure.


Name company # transducers frequency Sensor blanking minimum water depth maximum water depth velocity range max no of cells accuracy Bottom tracking remarks price date
(m) (m) (m) (relative)
Qliner OTT 3? 2 MHz 0.35 10 +/- 10 m/s 40 1 % no includes vertical beam, 2d only 18100.00 Sep 2013 (Germany)
1 MHz 0.45 20 40 vertical methods
RiverSurveyor S5/M9 SonTek 5 S5: 5 Sensoren (3 MHz) 0.06 0,3 5 (15) +/- 20 m/s 128 up to 0,25 % yes variable cell size 16000.00 Sep 2013 (Germany)
9 M9: 9 Sensoren (3 + 1 MHz) 0.06 0,3 40 (80) 27200.00 Sep 2013 (Germany)
using BT (GPS)
River Cat SonTek 5/3/1,5 MHz 2/3/10 0,25/0,5/0,8 +/- 10 m/s ? 0,1 cm/s yes up to 100 cells no longer available
Rio Grande Workhorse Teledyne RDI 4 1.2 MHz 0.05 0.6 (0.5) 25 (30) +/- 20 m/s 128/255 0,25 % yes 128 cells 35300.00 Aug 2013 (Germany)
0.6 MHz 0.25 0.7 80 128/255
RiverRay Teledyne RDI 4+1 0.6 MHz 0.6 (0.4) 40 (60) +/- 20 m/s 200 up to 0,25 % yes includes vertical beam as of new 38700.00 Aug 2013 (Germany)
80 for z only
Stream Pro Teledyne RDI ? 2 MHz 0,1 6 +/- 5 m/s 30 1 % yes 30 cells 33300.00 Aug 2013 (Germany)
(version with depth upgrade)


Name Company fits sensor replaceable by user operation shape weight (empty/complete, kg) size price (€) date
Riverboat Oceanscience Teledyne RDI Workhorse yes tethered trimaran 7/14 121x81 cm 5700.00 Aug 2013 (Germany)
Riverboat ST Oceanscience SonTek RiverSurveyor S5 or M9 yes? tethered trimaran
StreamPro (standard) RDInstruments Teledyne RDI StreamPro yes tethered trimaran -/5 70x44x11 cm
Riverboat SP Oceanscience Teledyne RDI StreamPro yes tethered trimaran 114cm x 81cm 4900.00 Aug 2013 (Germany)
High-Speed Riverboat Oceanscience SonTek and Teledyne RDI yes? tethered trimaran 13.6 152x122 cm 8900.00 Jun 2011 (Germany)
Qliner Ott Ott/Nortek no tethered catamaran
Hydroboard 0.91 Sontek SonTek RiverSurveyor S5 or M9 ? tethered board 91 cm 2400.00 Aug 2013 (Germany)
Hydroboard 1.19 Sontek SonTek RiverSurveyor S5 or M9 ? tethered board 119 cm 3200.00 Aug 2013 (Germany)
Q-Boat 1800P Oceanscience various yes remote single hull 25/40 180cm x 89cm 21900.00 Sep 2013 (Germany)
Q-Boat 1800D Oceanscience various yes remote single hull 25/40 180cm x 89cm 13600.00 Sep 2013 (Germany)
Q-Boat 1550T Oceanscience ? ? remote trimaran
Workhorse RDInstruments Teledyne RDI yes tethered trimaran 10/17 120x80x18 cm
Riverray RDInstruments/Oceanscience Teledyne RDI yes tethered trimaran 10/17 120x80x18 cm
Torrent Board V4 standard Sontek SonTek RiverSurveyor S5 or M9 ? tethered board 4.7/9.8 105x65 cmx25 3900.00 Aug 2013 (Germany)
Torrent Board V4 mini (SFF) Sontek SonTek RiverSurveyor S5 or M9 ? tethered board 3.1/8.2 80x50x15 cm






[http://www.oceanscience.com/Products/Tethered-Boats/High-Speed-Riverboat.aspx http://www.oceanscience.com/Products/Tethered-Boats/High-Speed-Riverboat.aspx]


[http://www.ott-hydrometry.de/web/ott_de.nsf/id/pa_produkte_qliner2_d.html http://www.ott-hydrometry.de/web/ott_de.nsf/id/pa_produkte_qliner2_d.html]

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