Offshore wave conditions can be measured using wave buoys, which are generally designed for wind waves. Longer waves (swell or bound second-order waves) are very relevant for certain maritime structures. The accuracy of the instrumentation in a typical wave buoy in long and short waves was therefore studied, and it was investigated if the buoy can be applied in longer waves.

A Waverider buoy was placed on a hexapod, which applied regular and irregular prescribed motions in multiple degrees of freedom. The hydrodynamic response of the buoy in waves and the effect of its mooring system were not evaluated; the buoy was assumed to follow the orbital motions of a wave and to rotate with its slope.

The tests showed that the buoy sensors measure accelerations and rotations with periods between 1.5 and 35 s very well. Vertical displacements derived from the accelerations by the buoy are accurate for the period range of 2 to 20 s. In longer waves, the motions are significantly underestimated, even though the accelerations are accurately measured. This will not lead to large errors in normal operation, as the energy of such long waves is generally low. This explains why the buoy also performs well when it is subjected to irregular motions (less than 2% error in the significant wave height of a half-hour measurement in realistic irregular sea states with peak periods between 5 and 20 s can be expected).

It can be concluded that the buoy accurately measures accelerations. The accuracy of the derived displacements decreases when very long swell wave energy (> 20 s) is present. Review of the internal integration procedure may be considered when there is a specific interest in measuring longer waves.

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