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Detection and Evidence Collection of Climate Buoy Vandalism


NOAA climate buoy arrays in the equatorial Pacific have seen increasing incidences of vandalism which reduce buoy data availability leaving gaps in critical climate observation data.  In particular, fishing boats frequently damage climate buoys and/or damage buoy moorings by using “slingshot” fishing techniques which put undue stress on buoy moorings that may cause mooring failures.  In addition, vandals often remove solar panels, batteries, and electronics, or buoy superstructure metal for salvage.


NOAA is seeking the capability to detect attempts at vandalism or intrusions on its climate buoys and a means to deter, dissuade, or preclude vandalism, “sling shot” fishing using buoys, or other interference with climate observation buoys.  A variety of methods might be employed to mitigate vandalism on NOAA buoys that include:  detection of buoy bumping, pulling or other disturbances to trigger defensive responses or evidence capture; detection of the presence of vessels near buoys and/or detection of the presence of people boarding buoys; deterrence of buoy boarding; deterrence of buoy “sling shot” fishing.  In addition, it is desired to capture photographic and other evidence to identify either vessels or individuals engaged in buoy vandalism, storing the evidence for later retrieval and/or real-time transmission of this evidence.


Because of limited space and power availability on climate buoys,  a system for detection/recording of evidence of vandalism would be a self-powered, stand-alone system that would not require changes to climate buoy design, have sufficient power and recording or reporting capacity to last for a minimum of 1 year and up to 2 years, limit size and weight to the capability of the buoy to host the device, be easy to maintain and replace in the field while operating from small service vessels, survive a marine environment, and be relatively low cost.


Project Goals: 

  • Conceptual design of a prototype system to detect, deter, and collect evidence of vandalism attempts to NOAA climate buoys


  • Design, develop prototype system


  • Perform laboratory testing of prototype system


  • Build and field test at least two prototype systems for detection, deterrence, and collection of evidence of vandalism attempts to NOAA climate buoys


Phase I Activities and Expected Deliverables:

  • Review of climate buoy power, size, and weight limitations as pertaining to potential Anti-vandalism detection and evidence collection systems.  Deliverable:  Summary report of buoy power, size, and weight limitations.


  • Review of potential technologies for vandalism detection, vandalism deterrence, and vandalism evidence collection, storage, and real-time transmission.  Deliverable:  Report detailing potential technologies for addressing vandalism detection, deterrence, and evidence collection, storage and transmission


  • Conceptual design of self-powered system for detection, deterrence, and evidence collection, storage and real-time transmission of vandalism on climate buoys.  Deliverables:  Design review, block diagrams, prototype schematics, drawings, and prototype hardware mock-up.


Phase II Activities and Expected Deliverables:

  • Complete design of production prototype system.  Deliverables: Critical design review, production prototype schematics, drawings, and draft system documentation.


  • Fabrication of 4 each prototype systems.  Deliverables:  4 each prototype systems ready to install on climate buoys, final draft of system documentation, laboratory testing of prototype systems, and report on system laboratory testing.


  • Installation of at least two systems on NOAA climate buoy for field testing for a 1 year period.  Deliverables: System installation, installation and activation procedures for field personnel, and report on test results at the end of test period.
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