Synthetic aperture sonar (SAS) bathymetric mapping provides centimeter-scale horizontal resolution of the seafloor. Typically, SAS data has been visualized as 2D images or gridded 2.5D surfaces, but it can also be plotted as 3D point clouds. Even if the imaging system is not fully volumetric, the imaging geometry leaves the possibility of having data points that reside in the same lateral positions in a ground coordinate system. Visualizing these without geometric distortion or loss of data is challenging. In this paper we investigate the use of full-fledged 3D rendering with artificial lighting and shading techniques in order to convey more of the available information. We aim to produce better 3D visualization of shipwrecks. We provide an overview of which data products are available from state-of-the-art SAS processing, and explore existing visualization methods. We discuss the use of surfaces and point clouds for 3D rendering, and various shading and rendering techniques. Our goal is to display SAS bathymetry in a way that is both intuitive and can convey more supplemental information to the observer. Finally, we show image and video examples of rendering large shipwreck scenes using data collected by a HISAS1032 SAS carried by a HUGIN autonomous underwater vehicle.

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