Peer-Reviewed Research

Performance of moored GPS wave buoys

Sofar Ocean

This paper was written by Clarence O'Collins, Patrick Dickhudt, Jim Thomson, Tony de Paolo, Mark Otero, Sophia Merrifield, Eric Terrill, Martha Schonau, Lancelot Braasch, Theresa Paluszkiewicz, ad Luca Centurioni.


"Small, lightweight, and easy-to-deploy Global Positioning Satellite (GPS)-based miniature wave buoys (mini-buoys) are increasing in popularity. Most are deployed as Lagrangian drifters, so their utility for engineering applications, requiring a nearshore mooring, has remained in question. We evaluated the performance of five moored mini-buoys off the coast of Duck, North Carolina at Field Research Facility (FRF). We collected 8 months of data over two deployments; first near the FRF’s 8-m array and then near a Datawell Waverider in 17-m depth. We deployed an Acoustic Doppler Current Profiler (ADCP) that measured waves and currents, and compared it to the nearby operational system as a performance benchmark for the mini-buoys. The mini-buoys performed well, with statistics similar to the benchmark for wave frequency spectra and spectral parameters, and they outperformed the benchmark on directional parameters. However, mini-buoy communication was sometimes interrupted by tilting or submersion, which manifested as low-frequency noise or drop-outs. If a mooring was taut, forced by winds or currents and exacerbated by tangled lines or shallower depths, then mini-buoys were more susceptible to communication issues. Overall, these issues were rare; thus, mini-buoys were found to be appropriate for many applications."

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