We propose a novel variational Wave Acquisition Stereo System (WASS) that exploits new stereo reconstruction techniques for accurate estimates of the spatio-temporal dynamics of ocean waves. WASS has a significant advantage as a low-cost system in both installation and maintenance. A stereo camera view provides three-dimensional data (both in space and time) whose statistical content is richer than that of a time series retrieved from wave gauges, ultrasonic instruments or buoys, the latter being expensive to install and maintain. Indeed, wave spectra can be easily estimated from the multi-dimensional images obtained with WASS. The estimated spectra present an inertial range that decays as k−2.5, k being the wave number, in agreement with wave turbulence theory (Zakharov 1999, Socquet-Juglard et al. 2005). Further, the empirical probability density functions derived from the reconstructed surface data compare very well with theoretical models (Tayfun & Fedele 2007, Fedele 2008). The variational WASS is a promising technology with broader impacts in offshore engineering since it will enrich the understanding of the statistics of waves for an improved design of offshore structures.

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