Hydrographic survey is the science of measurement and description of features which affect maritime navigation, marine construction, dredging, offshore oil exploration/offshore oil drilling and related activities. Strong emphasis is placed on soundings, shorelines, tides, currents, seabed and submerged obstructions that relate to the previously mentioned activities. The term hydrography is used synonymously to describe maritime cartography, which in the final stages of the hydrographic process uses the raw data collected through hydrographic survey into information usable by the end user.
Hydrography is collected under rules which vary depending on the acceptance authority. Traditionally conducted by ships with a sounding line or echo sounding, surveys are increasingly conducted with the aid of aircraft and sophisticated electronic sensor systems in shallow waters.