Those beautiful and dangerous ocean waves that beckon us to the coast are more than just a pretty sight. They can tell us a lot about weather patterns and what the sea itself is doing. As vital as this information is, the existing methods of doing wave research are pretty expensive. The team at [t3chflicks] wanted to show it can be done fairly cheaply, to encourage more citizen scientists to contribute. More data means a better understanding, and open research benefits even those who don’t actively participate.

They have developed a smart buoy that collects wave data and transmits it back to a base station for real-time display. The buoy runs on an 18650 that gets recharged by four 5V solar panels situated around the top half of the 3D-printed hull. An Arduino inside the buoy controls the sensors, most of which are baked into the GY-86 10-DOF module. The antenna on top sends the data back to a Raspi Zero base station, which charts wave height, wave period, wave power, water and air temperature, and barometric pressure in real-time on a spiffy Vue JS dashboard.

The team had their ups and downs during this project. They wanted to measure wave direction, but it proved a bit too complicated. And memory issues prevented them from backing up the data to an on-buoy SD card. You can catch the more in-depth hardware and software videos on their YouTube channel. We’ve got the smart buoy summary video tied up and floating just after the break.

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Want to help buoy wave research, but don’t have a 3D printer? Sealed PVC makes a fine flotation device, as we saw in this water quality-sensing buoy.


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