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B.C. Company’s Camera Buoys Give Mariners Real-Time Look at Conditions

B.C. Company’s Camera Buoys Give Mariners Real-Time Look at Conditions

Ocean Sciences and Marine Technology Technology Services VIATEC Member News

Those who have travelled by sea know how fast weather conditions can change. Knowing how important it is to have as much information as possible before heading out on the water, a Victoria-based company is launching 360-degree cameras on a familiar floating object

A B.C. company has deployed a new technology that’s helping mariners better understand weather and safety conditions on two Canadian coasts.

Victoria-based MarineLabs already has more than three dozen sophisticated sensor buoys at sea capable of providing real-time data on weather and ocean conditions.

It’s now in the midst of a $1.1 million pilot project with the Canadian Coast Guard that’s testing technology taking things a step further: providing 360-degree visual images, updated every 15 minutes.

Sixteen of the “Buoy Cams” have been deployed on Canada’s coasts so far, from Newfoundland to Saint John, N.B., in the east and from Prince Rupert to Vancouver in the west.

“We think that these cameras provide a visual context to the weather data that they’re already getting from our sensor units. So that means they can see if its foggy or not, what type of visibility, can they see a landmark that they can usually see in that camera view,” MarineLabs CEO Scott Beatty told Global News.

“So that can really tie things together and make it more safe for marine operations.”

Beatty said the tool has proven particularly popular with vessel pilots, who must head out to sea and physically board the ships they will guide in to port — and who may delay such a trip if the weather is dangerous.

He said the tools also show promise for vessel operations, search and rescue missions and aviation operations, such as for helicopters that can’t fly in fog.

They also hold promise for tracking the effects of climate change, from sea level rise to extreme weather events.

It will be up to the coast guard to determine what’s next once the year-long trial wraps at the end of November. But so far, the technology is getting good reviews from mariners.

“The better the information is, the more accurate and timely it is – the better we can make the decisions to move vessels safely in our waters in Canada,” said Capt. Alain Arsenault, executive director of the National Centre of Expertise on Maritime Pilotage.

“What MarineLabs offers is simple and it uses infrastructures that are already deployed – which is a first.”

Attempts at a similar technology have so far relied on expensive and hard-to-maintain floating buoys that are difficult to deploy, according to Beatty.

The MarineLabs approach involves self-contained, solar-powered units that can be bolted onto existing navigational aids on Canada’s coasts.

With more than 10,000 such aids already in place, Beatty said he’s optimistic the tools could play a huge part in coastal safety.

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