Iridium tracks tsunami buoys for NOAA

Monitoring of tsunami waves and conditions is set to improve as Iridium has won the contract to provide satellite data links for the 31 ocean buoys that the US Department of Commerce National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) National Data Center is now deplo yi ng.

The NOAA ocean buoy system detects and monitors tsunami waves in the open ocean; Iridium will be working with the new, second-generation Deep-Ocean Assessment and Reporting of Tsunamis (DART II) system set to cost US$37.5 million.

Consisting of pressure-sensitive tsunameters on the seafloor and buoys on the ocean surface, the buoys are equipped with an acoustic modem that receives data from the tsunameter sensors and a small data modem to transmit the pressure measurements. The Iridium constellation of 66 Low-Earth Orbiting (LEO) satellites transmits the pressure measurements to NOAA warning centres. Using this data, scientists can issue appropriate warnings to areas that may be affected.

The Iridium data link supports two-way data communications, permitting technicians at the warning centres to request tsunameter data from any specific buoy. For instance, the warning centre may ask one or more buoys to transmit updates at a faster rate to improve real-time monitoring of a special area of interest.

One of Iridium's value-added manufacturers, NAL Research, is suppl yi ng the ruggedised Iridium data modems for the buoys: "The original DART I system, deployed in the late 1990s, used a high-power geostationary satellite for the data links but the satellite's footprint limited its coverage to about a third of the Earth's surface," said Dr Ngoc Hoang, president of NAL Research. "The DART II buoys, using Iridium technology, will provide complete global coverage."

Testing and field service are being conducted in the Pacific Ocean by the Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) . "The DART II technology will make it easier and faster for warning centres to alert coastal areas in time to evacuate residents quickly," said Jack Rowley, SAIC DART manager. "The implications for saving lives are tremendous."

* NAL Research is headquartered in Northern Virginia. It provides advanced Iridium satellite modems and tracking terminals for the defence, research and commercial sectors. Products are used in many applications, including asset tracking, search and rescue, remote sensing and command/control of both ground and airborne platforms. 

** NOAA is an agency of the US Department of Commerce and is dedicated to enhancing economic security and national safety through the prediction and research of weather and climate-related events and providing environmental stewardship of the nation's coastal and marine resources. 

*** SAIC is the largest employee-owned research and engineering company in the USA, providing IT, systems integration and e-solutions to commercial and government customers. SAIC engineers and scientists solve complex technical problems in national and homeland security, energy, the environment, space, telecommunications, health care and logistics. SAIC has annual revenues of US$7.2 billion and subsidiaries employing more than 42,000 employees in over 150 cities worldwide.

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