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Autonomous Mobile Marine Meteorological Station



TECHNOLOGY AREA(S): Battlespace, Ground/Sea Vehicles, Sensors

ACQUISITION PROGRAM: Proposed FNC on the EM effects in near surface conditions; also EM Railgun for over water targets

OBJECTIVE: The objective is to develop an autonomous, mobile, marine meteorological station with the capability to launch radiosonde balloons for marine boundary layer characterization. The challenges of this development are stability of the platform for measurements, real-time data transmission, gas-handling, and unmanned surface vessel (USV) autonomy.

DESCRIPTION: For air-sea interaction measurements, it is important to measure the atmospheric boundary layer at the same time that we measure the ocean wave boundary layer and the ocean mixed-layer parameters. Because we have moved field measurements in the ocean to autonomous vehicles, we now have a mis-match between the measurements of the ocean wave-boundary layer and ocean mixed layer and the atmospheric boundary layer. The radiosonde measurements of atmospheric parameters for the upper 10-1000 m, the near surface humidity, temperature, particle concentration, wind speed, direction and pressure, and other meteorological measurements have historically been made from ocean research vessels. We would like to create a matching autonomous sampling capability for the atmospheric boundary layer. This capability would provide tremendous cost-savings; a ship-day costs from $25K to $55K a day. We estimate that a fully-operational USV with meteorological measuring gear could cost about $500K; however, its mobility but would create an appropriate match or time and spatial sampling with autonomous ocean gear like gliders, floats, etc. The present methods of measuring boundary layer data and fluxes at sea are very rough and crude with a large loss of accuracy - this will improve the quality as well as quantity of the data.

The objective of this program is to develop a mobile, steerable meterological measurement system that is capable of measuring the atmospheric boundary layer from just above the wave tops to the stable atmosphere. The following parameters are desirable:


Real-time reporting


Steerable, stable platform with navigational accuracy to 1 meter over 1 hour


Duration of 2-6 months


Retrievable (desirable but not a hard and fast option)


Deployable from surface vessels


Operating conditions: operational up to Beaufort Scale 4 [winds 13 - 17 mph;


wave height 3.5 - 6 ft; small waves with breaking crests; fairly frequent whitecaps]


Functional at storm conditions is desirable but also needs to be examined as a trade-off

Supports the following measurements:


Pressure, temperature, humidity, wind speed, wind direction, aerosol concentration


Supports the release of radiosondes or equivalent measurements through the boundary layer to the stable atmosphere (this should be part of the trade-off study)

This leap-ahead technology would also have tremendous utility to other agencies that support at sea-operations such as the Coast Guard, NOAA, the Navy METOC community

PHASE I: Develop initial concept design and evaluate potential components that can meet the operating and environmental criteria outlined above. Perform trade-off studies of cost, compatibility and capability; utilize market surveys, modeling, and or simulations to demonstrate feasibility. Create the initial design and interface control document. Under the option, if awarded, detail the costs, components, and structure of a prototype.

PHASE II: Based on Phase I work, construct a prototype system and demonstrate:


(1) operational efficacy in a maritime environment across the range of environmental conditions outlined above, meeting minimum thresholds, (2) collect and relay in real-time data sets for evaluation, and (3) engage in a comparative study of data quality against fixed or boat-based systems. (4) describe and detail cost advantages for productions of 10-50 units. Identify applications and benefits to the commercial and private sectors.

PHASE III DUAL USE APPLICATIONS: Conduct a full-scale scenario operational demonstration of the Phase II prototype. Integrate into the broader FNC programs or DRI programs to provide an operation use evaluation and to demonstrate viability across the naval force. Develop plans for scaling up manufacturing capabilities and commercialization plans with emphasis on price point and reduction for large numbers of units. Private Sector Commercial Potential: Industry, other governmental, and NGO organizations engaged in weather forecasting, climate-change assessment, marine condition forecasting, oil spill assessment and response, disaster response, disaster relief and recovery, maritime recovery, and marine science and exploration—conducted in countries/regions possessing or lacking developed maritime infrastructure—will benefit from this product.


  • Ocean Futures Study, 2015, National Studies Board;
  • A Cooperative Strategy for the 21st Century Seapower; OCT 2007; jointly released by the Chief of Naval Operations, Commandant of the US Marine Corps, and Commandant of the US Coast Guard;
  • Naval Expeditionary Logistics: Enabling Operational Maneuver From the Sea; 1999; National Studies Board;

KEYWORDS: autonomous surface vehicle; mobility; near-surface meterology; radiosonde measurements; humidity, atmospheric pressure; air temperature, atmospheric stability

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