The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) has announced that one of the agency’s six navigation response teams will make its permanent home the John C. Stennis Space Center in Hancock County, Miss.
NOAA’s navigation response teams, part of Coast Survey, survey the seafloor in ports and harbors that have undergone infrastructure updates, shoreline alterations, or seafloor changes. They measure depths and look for underwater hazards that could endanger vessels and update nautical charts for commercial and recreational mariners. The teams are also on call to respond to navigational emergencies.
Located on the Pearl River at the Mississippi-Louisiana border, Stennis is also home to NOAA’s National Data Buoy Center (NDBC) and adjacent to other federal and state groups involved in seafloor mapping and unmanned hydrographic survey systems.
“Coast Survey strategically places navigation teams around the country, and having a team permanently based at Stennis will speed our response to navigational emergencies in the Gulf,” said Rear Admiral Shepard Smith, Coast Survey director. “We are also looking forward to potential collaboration on emerging hydrographic technologies with our partners there.”
NOAA plans to grow the navigation response team at Stennis initially to include five people and a suite of mobile survey equipment, including unmanned systems, that can perform a variety of coastal mapping missions and respond to urgent hydrographic survey needs. The long-term facilities arrangement at Stennis aims to support the team’s basic operations and aid the research, development, and implementation of unmanned systems.
“The NOAA Data Buoy Center sees value in collaborating with Coast Survey’s navigation response team as the center is interested in broadening its activities from predominantly moored buoys to all manner of ocean observation tools, including maritime unmanned systems,” said Helmut Portmann, director of NDBC.
In addition to the synergies with the NOAA’s Buoy Center, the Navy has unmanned maritime systems operations based out of Stennis, and the University of Southern Mississippi is developing unmanned systems training classes there.