The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is investing in a network of hi-tech buoys to monitor the U.S. coastline and warn homeland security officials of suspicious boats heading towards shore, reports USA Today.
The "sonobuoys" can pick up sounds made by everything from 25-foot speedboats commonly used in the drug trade to lumbering ships. If one passes through the invisible net of buoys, information will be transmitted by satellite to the Internet and read by security officials on land or at sea.
If a signal from a suspect boat is picked up, the Coast Guard or police boats would have time to intercept it before it reaches land, Goward says. "It lets enforcement authorities know what's going on, and if something bad's going on, we can respond to it," he says.
The buoys would be placed roughly 20 miles apart and anchored up to 200 miles offshore, so they would be far enough away from land not to pick up a lot of recreational boats.
Currently, DHS relies on expensive aircraft and satellite surveillance to patrol the high seas for suspicious boats and ships heading towards shore.
DHS has selected two companies, Advanced Acoustic Concepts (ACC) and LewTech Company, out of the original six it had given $100,000 to to develop the buoy system prototype. Armed with an additional $750,000, both companies will now test the durability and effectiveness of their buoys. DHS wants resilient buoys that can take the ocean's pounding and only require maintenance once a year.
Walt Wright of ACC told USA Today that his company's buoys, equipped with a light and camera, will cost approximately $15,000 each and that the company is "going to make them as indestructible as [it] can."