Fluid dynamic gauging (FDG) is a technique for measuring the thickness of soft solid deposit layers immersed in a liquid environment, in situ and in real time. This paper details the performance of a novel automated, scanning FDG probe (sFDG) which allows the thickness of a sample layer to be monitored at several points during an experiment, with a resolution of +/- 5 mu m. Its application is demonstrated using layers of gelatine, polyvinyl alcohol (PVA) and baked tomato puree deposits. Swelling kinetics, as well as deformation behaviour-based on knowledge of the stresses imposed on the surface by the gauging flow-can be determined at several points, affording improved experimental data. The use of FDG as a surface scanning technique, operating as a fluid mechanical analogue of atomic force microscopy on a millimetre length scale, is also demonstrated. The measurement relies only on the flow behaviour, and is thus suitable for use in opaque fluids, does not contact the surface itself and does not rely on any specific physical properties of the surface, provided it is locally stiff.