Wave Radar vs. Wave Buoy (2024)

The cost, endurance, reliability, and accuracy advantages of having a “dry” radar based wave measurement tool are significant. “Wet” assets such as buoys suffer from numerous disadvantages that are not easy to overcome.

Disadvantages of Buoys

  • Inexpensive wave buoys that measure wave height and direction can be purchased for as little as $60,000 [1]. However, a wave buoy that can offer similar wave and metocean data provided by FutureWaves can cost as much as $450,000 [2]
  • Additional costs to deploy and maintain
    • Deployment – $30,000 [1]
    • Maintenance – $170,000 per year [3]
    • Repair – $25,000 [4]
  • The ocean environment can be cruel, and buoys are not spared from mother nature’s impacts
    • Biofouling is the build up of sea-life on wet assets that negatively affects the efficiency of the asset. Buoys can experience this quickly (within 2-3 weeks [5]) and suffer from reduced accuracy or even be rendered completely inoperable
    • Moorings/anchors can give way to extreme conditions or poor seafloor conditions, sending buoys adrift
  • Aside from nature’s impact, several human factors come into play:
    • Sensitive transducers can easily be damaged by boat traffic
    • Buoys often fall victim to vandalism and theft [6]
    • Fishermen often anchor off buoys to catch the fish attracted to them
    • Buoys have been found caught in fishing equipment such as nets
  • Buoy data is only relevant to operations conducted within their immediate vicinity
      • Buoys cannot provide wave timing and cannot sync with vessel data (course, speed, motion, etc.)
      • In some cases, buoys can produce erroneous directional information. Because buoys measure the wave field at one physical location, they do not have enough information to accurately measure wave direction and spreading under many circ*mstances. NOAA’s National Data Buoy Center Technical Document [7] states that a commonly directional estimation technique “may provide erroneous directional information”, and states that that same technique “may produce artificially narrow directional spreading functions … and artificial double-peaks”. FutureWaves is free from such limitations and assumptions through the use of a radar which measures the wavefield over a large area and the use of a specially-developed directional spectrum estimation algorithm. These advantages enable FutureWaves to set a new standard for sea state information.

[1] http://sccoos.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/terrill_thomas_0686-2016_sccoos_wave_buoy_supplement_proposal.pdf

[2] https://matteroftrust.org/14628/wave-sensor-buoy-deployed-in-cape-cod-bay

[3] https://www.miros-group.com/blog/wave-buoys-pitfalls-price-tags-and-piracy-on-the-high-seas/

[4] https://www.technologyreview.com/s/423280/the-reliability-of-tsunami-detection-buoys/

[5] Yebra, Diego Meseguer; Kiil, Soren; Dam-Johansen, Kim (July 2004), “Antifouling technology–past, present and future steps towards efficient and environmentally friendly antifouling coatings”,Progress in Organic Coatings,50(2): 75–104,doi:10.1016/j.porgcoat.2003.06.001,ISSN0300-9440

[6] Teng, Chung-Chu & Cucullu, S & McArthur, S & Kohler, C & Burnett, B & Bernard, Landry. (2009). Buoy vandalism experienced by NOAA National Data Buoy Center. 1 – 8.

[7] http://www.ndbc.noaa.gov/wavemeas.pdf

Wave Radar vs. Wave Buoy (1)

Boat fouling organisms
Photograph by Doug Beckers

Wave Radar vs. Wave Buoy (2)

Retrieval of zebra mussel-encrusted Vector Averaging Current Meter near Michigan City, IN. Lake Michigan, June 1999. Photo by NOAA, Great Lakes Environmental Research Laboratory

Wave Radar vs. Wave Buoy (3)

Buoy set adrift

Wave Radar vs. Wave Buoy (2024)


What are the disadvantages of a buoy? ›

Disadvantages of Buoys

Sensitive transducers can easily be damaged by boat traffic. Buoys often fall victim to vandalism and theft [6] Fishermen often anchor off buoys to catch the fish attracted to them. Buoys have been found caught in fishing equipment such as nets.

Do buoys measure waves? ›

To calculate the directional wave parameters, the buoy will use both angular motion data and surface elevation data in the frequency domain by measuring the correlation between the slopes of the north–south and east–west angles and the lift dataset. Then, it will calculate the directional coefficients.

What are some limitations to using buoys as indicators of ocean conditions? ›

Buoys in the ocean can essentially be configured and equipped with sensors to measure a wide range of variables. The biggest limitation on ocean weather buoys is the harsh conditions of the ocean itself.

How does NOAA measure wave height? ›

Significant wave height (meters) is calculated as the average of the highest one-third of all of the wave heights during the 20-minute sampling period. See the Wave Measurements section. Dominant wave period (seconds) is the period with the maximum wave energy. See the Wave Measurements section.

What is the problem with buoys? ›

Cracks – in addition to allowing for water ingress, cracks can be a sign that the material has aged and weakened, or that a buoy has been hit by a vessel. Once the structure is breached the deterioration of the buoy will naturally speed up. Rusting – for steel buoys rust is a common issue, particularly in saltwater.

How do buoys not float away? ›

Given that the express purpose for navigation buoys is to ensure waterways are safe, Corilla navigation buoys are designed to stay afloat and to keep the critical components functioning properly. Crucial to this is the foam used to fill the float collars which provide the floatation required.

What 4 things do the buoys measure? ›

The sensors on board the Smart Buoy enable it to measure: wave height, wave period, wave power, water temperature, air temperature, air pressure, voltage, current usage and GPS location. In an ideal world, it would also have measured wave direction.

Do buoys have GPS? ›

A GPS buoy is a buoy equipped with a GPS receiver. It is used for sea level and research search-and-rescue operations, among other applications.

Do buoys collect data? ›

Buoys are reliable sources of near and open ocean meteorological data. Among other parameters, depending on the instrumentation available, buoys can provide data on winds, waves, air pressure, air and water temperature, dew point, swell, and salinity.

What buoy indicates the safest water? ›

Safe Water Markers: These are white with red vertical stripes and indicate unobstructed water on all sides. They mark mid-channels or fairways and may be passed on either side. Mooring Buoys: These are white with a blue horizontal band.

What buoy is prohibited boating? ›

Keep-out buoys mark areas where boats are prohibited. These buoys are white with orange bands and an orange diamond containing a cross.

How do buoys predict hurricanes? ›

The drifting buoys, called drifters, collect data on sea surface temperature, wind, and atmospheric pressure, and transmit this data in real-time via the Global Telecommunication System. This data provides important information that can help forecasters predict the path and intensity of hurricanes.

How do buoys record wave height? ›

NDBC-reported wave measurements are not directly measured by sensors on board the buoys. Instead, the accelerometers or inclinometers on board the buoys measure the heave acceleration or the vertical displacement of the buoy hull during the wave acquisition time.

How accurate are wave forecasts? ›

The best models are correct roughly 70-80% of the time. This is why experts estimate that marine forecasts are relatively accurate for the next 2-4 days.

How big are waves in the middle of the ocean? ›

About half of the waves in the open sea are less than 2 m high, and only 10-15% exceed 6 m. But the ocean can produce some extremely large waves. The largest wind wave reliably measured at sea occurred in the Pacific Ocean in 1935, and was measured by the navy tanker the USS Ramapo.

What are the three disadvantages of sea transport? ›

There are risks and disadvantages of transporting goods by sea, including:
  • shipping by sea can be slower than other transport modes and bad weather can add further delays.
  • routes and timetables are usually inflexible.
  • tracking your goods' progress is difficult.
  • you have to pay port duties and taxes.

What is a hazard to vessel buoy? ›

Hazard buoy Special Buoy

Hazard buoys or markers indicate random hazards such as rocks and shoal. A hazard buoy is colored white with an orange diamond on two opposite sides and two orange horizontal bands. Not all shallow areas or submerged hazards are marked by a hazard buoy.

What is the life expectancy of a buoy? ›

Lifespan of buoys can be estimated more than 20 years. Service and Maintenance: UV-stabilized polyethylene limits marine growth and enables an easy and fast cleaning “on board”.


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