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National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration For more information: (206) 526-6239

A smaller, safer, greener, and more cost-effective ocean observation system.

The PICO concept is the product of 30 years of PMEL experience with the logistical and financial challenges inherent in conventional oceanographic mooring systems. Recently, we've successfully deployed prototypes of this promising new technology throughout the Pacific.

In the years ahead—with the resources necessary to further enhance research and development efforts—the enabling possibilities of this streamlined and more energy efficient approach are rich indeed.

The PICO concept is not necessarily intended to replace all conventional moorings, such as those used as reference stations with heavy and redundant instrument loads. However, the low cost and ease of deployment will complement some observing systems and completely enable other time series measurements.

Comparison Chart

  PICO Concept Conventional Moorings (CM)
Size 20 pre-packaged PICO units can fit into a single 40 ft. shipping container. 1-2 CMs fit into a 40 ft. container in ~15 pieces each (anchors, buoy, bridle, tower, wire rope, nylon line, barrels of chain, hardware, and tools).
Sea Transport Can be sent aboard smaller vessels of opportunity, i.e. a fishing craft on its regular route. Able to deploy in higher sea states than CM. Large research ships with specialized personnel and equipment.
Building & Assembly Pre-built, factory assembled, and deployment-ready when shipped. Deployments are sea state limited. Shipped in many parts and assembled on ship deck with skilled technicians in the field.
Manpower Can be deployed by 1-3 people with basic seagoing skills. Buoy/mooring experience is unnecessary. Requires 6-12 specialized crew and technicians.
Operational Life Estimated 3-5 years. 1 year.
Vulnerability to Vandalism Smaller surface expression that's harder to see and has less radar return. Nothing to climb on and no hardware to steal. Vandalism is a major cause of failure for CMs.


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