Drone Startup Solves World’s Hottest Debate: Wave Height in Surfing

The subject most likely to cause heated arguments between surfers (apart from whether someone else has the right to be in their place) is the size of the waves they’ve been surfing – a more subjective and controversial assessment. that two sports practitioners use drones to improve their skills.

Meteorologist Teddy Allen and algorithm expert Milan Curic are the driving force behind Henet Wave, a startup they created using a sensor-packing drone to precisely measure the size of the waves their fellow surfers fail on. can never, but never agree. The pair enticed fellow swell pilots and geek-leaning teammates to develop their technique of deploying a UAV equipped with a high-resolution altimeter and sophisticated GPS monitor over circuit breakers. The results were accurate liquid dimension readings that are currently “calculated” with too many pure observations to be entirely reliable.

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The duo formed Henet – Egyptian for “pelican” – in 2020 after reading about a women’s big wave surfing competition. The article debated aspects of how the winners of competitions were determined, with the element of size oddly less of a factor than “doing” the giant swells – i.e. riding them to the end.

“For us, the biggest debate should have been the ability to tell the difference between a 73-foot wave and a 69-foot wave using subjective methods,” the startup’s website recalls, with Allen and Curic immediately deciding. that the rough estimate was wrong from the start. “Henet was born… (and now) guides surfers into the new world of purely objective measurement of XXL waves in real time.

The professional surfing world has come up with a formula for determining – rather – wave height, but in the end, it remains a biased method and the source of much contention.

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Traditionally, Californians tend to exaggerate swell size, with Hawaiians erring in the opposite direction. Great New Yorker Journalist and lifelong surfer William Finnegan encountered a person who couldn’t get close in feet, but “could fairly accurately estimate how many fridges stacked on top of each other would match the height of the waves.”

Try this one with professional competitors, or even the swaggering amateurs who populate most of the lineups.

To avoid the biases that humans bring to the task, Henet uses a drone whose sensors transmit real-time readings of the height from peak to trough to operators. These provide an accurate measurement of wave size from as small as a foot, to as big as surfers can watch without losing bladder control.

On top of that, what the founders call their “air buoy” can also determine wave period – a major factor determining swell strength – with a single drone able to scale set after set as the surfers ride them. The only limitation of the technique is the usual capacity of drone batteries.

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To test their drone innovation, Allen and Curic took it to the current big wave surfing mecca of Nazaré in Portugal last February. Swell sizes ranged from 15 or 20 feet to 40 to 50 feet – the giant of the session being a monster they measured at 70.87 feet, to be exact.

Along with making their drone technology more widely available to end surfers’ endless wrangling over who shredded the biggest face of the day, Allen and Curic’s other ambition is to be the sport’s first fans to accurately and unmistakably measure a wave. 100 feet or more.


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