A radar to spot nasty rogue waves

DELFT _ Spend enough time at sea and you become good at predicting the force, size and direction of the next wave. Unless it is a rogue one, of course. One of those very large, steep walls of water that surge with no warning and can cause serious structural damage.

Delft University of Technology researcher Peter Naaijen has developed a ‘wave radar’ that shows dangerous waves when they are only minutes away. His technology is getting noticed by the marine sector. He is in touch with Dutch yacht builders for whose clients onboard comfort is no small concern. He cannot name the builders, he says.

“Conditions at sea can be predicted, but not very precisely,” Naaijen tells Dutch Yachtbuilding. “It’s like a 30% chance of rain forecast. You won’t know exactly when and where it will rain.”

His wave radar takes a cue from the rain radar _ which shows the next downpour coming for you _ to predict how high waves will be around a vessel 2.5 minutes in advance. His technology uses a ship’s navigation radar that locates other vessels. But, happily, it collects more data _ like the location of waves _ “by emitting electromagnetic waves bouncing off the sea waves,” says Naaijen. “This information is now filtered out as of no interest. We extract this raw radar data and analyze it with smart algorithms.”

The wave radar can reduce accidents at sea. “You can gain much time if you no longer have to wait to carry out offshore operations,” says Naaijen. “If a 3m wave is the upper limit, a sea operation may be canceled if the sea state generates data showing waves of higher than 3 meters.”

Naaijen and a former fellow student have started up Next Ocean to develop a wave-radar app. The first user is Allseas, an offshore projects company. Naaijen has contracts with “5 potential customers from various market segments within the maritime industry for pilot projects,” says Naaijen. “One, is a Dutch builder of luxury yachts. “

The wave radar system alerts crew and guests to large waves, recommends an optimal heading to skirt them and is also handy in timing crew/passenger transfers to and from tenders.