Map from the Data Buoy Cooperation Panel (DBCP) website showing deployed Buoys by Platform Type as of September, 2016.


Efforts are underway to map the oceans for increased understanding of climate change, ecosystem health, available fish stocks, energy resources, and weather patterns. To achieve this increased understanding, additional sensors are being added to existing buoys and monitoring systems, and new purpose built buoys are being deployed.

Current approaches rely heavily on small diesel generator sets, batteries, solar panels and small micro-wind turbine generators to provide required power. Considering the cost associated with refueling and maintaining generator sets in remote ocean locations and the limited access due to weather conditions, the diesel generator set approach does not address the persistence, reliability and cost effectiveness needs of these activities.

Additionally, while solar panels are attractive when it comes to reducing/eliminating the need for costly refueling operations in principle, their low energy density and the severe effects of exposure to ocean corrosion, combined with limited solar exposure in the northern latitudes eliminate them as a main stream reliable power solution. Similarly micro-wind turbines suffer from reliability and availability limitations in the harsh ocean environment. Hence, the performance of existing solutions relies mainly on the life of the batteries, and therefore the amount of power available and its duration are seriously limited.

Reliable and persistent power, often in higher amounts than are typically found on the current class of buoys and incumbent solutions, is a crucial need to enable meaningful and cost effective operational duration. In addition, the ability to consolidate and integrate new sensor systems with additional capabilities onto existing buoy platforms has the potential to reduce capital and operating & maintenance costs of these initiatives. Another benefit of increased and persistent power is the ability to address and mitigate issues such as bio-fouling which represent a major hindrance on proper sensor data operation and further extends the system’s useful life.

PB3 - An Autonomous Solution for Persistent Power

The PB3 is specifically targeted to the ocean observing market needs, and delivers a continuous reliable power of 350 Watts for instruments, data analysis, telecommunication, and data transmission to shore. The stability of OPT’s spar and float design minimizing pitch and roll provides an exceptional platform for mounting directionally sensitive sensors or transmitters. As demonstrated in prior ocean tests, the buoy maintained a relatively vertical orientation of 10 – 15 degrees off vertical during storm waves.

Currently, the PB3 design is being iterated upon from a prior generation buoy which was designed to provide 250 to 350 Watts in a moderate wave climate with 99% availability and demonstrated survival in waves up to 50 feet in height during storm conditions. The final PB3 product will have the ability to address all the shortcomings of the existing ocean observing solutions.

In addition to supplying greater amounts of power continuously and persistently, the PowerBuoy can:

  • enable the integration of larger payloads encompassing more sensors
  • enable denser real time data to be collected
  • process and transmit to any shore station of interest
  • reduce operational and life-cycle costs

Deployed Tsunami Buoy courtesy of NOAA.