Moored buoys have long served national interests, but incur high development, construction, installation, and maintenance costs. Buoys which drift off-location can pose hazards to mariners, and in coastal waters may cause environmental damage. Moreover, retrieval, repair and replacement of drifting buoys may be delayed when data would be most useful. Such gaps in coastal buoy data can pose a threat to national security by reducing maritime domain awareness. The concept of self-positioning buoys has been advanced to reduce installation cost by eliminating mooring hardware. We here describe technology for operation of reduced cost self-positioning buoys which can be used in coastal or oceanic waters. The ASC SCOUT model is based on a self-propelled, GPS-positioned, autonomous surface craft that can be pre-programmed, autonomous, or directed in real time. Each vessel can communicate wirelessly with deployment vessels and other similar buoys directly or via satellite. Engineering options for short or longer term power requirements are considered, in addition to future options for improved energy delivery systems. Methods of reducing buoy drift and position-maintaining energy requirements for self-locating buoys are also discussed, based on the potential of incorporating traditional maritime solutions to these problems. We here include discussion of the advanced Delay Tolerant Networking (DTN) communications draft protocol which offers improved wireless communication capabilities underwater, to adjacent vessels, and to satellites. DTN is particularly adapted for noisy or loss-prone environments, thus it improves reliability. In addition to existing buoy communication via commercial satellites, a growing network of small satellites known as PICOSATs can be readily adapted to provide low-cost communications nodes for buoys. Coordination with planned vessel Automated Identification Systems (AIS) and International Maritime Organization standards for buoy and vessel notificat- - ion systems are reviewed and the legal framework for deployment of autonomous surface vessels is considered.


Center for Coastal and Ocean Mapping

Publication Date


Journal or Conference Title

IEEE Oceans



Conference Date

Sep 18 - Sep 22, 2006

Publisher Place

Boston, MA, USA



Digital Object Identifier (DOI)


Document Type

Conference Proceeding