The goal of this buoy, called Aegeus, is to protect the Nation's Capital from any radiation that may be coming up the Potomac River.
Aegeus is bright yellow, and observant, with cameras and sensors that detect the kind of radiation that might come from a dirty bomb. It monitors information all day long and then it transmits it to a control center. So scientists back on shore would receive a signal if something was not behaving appropriately, and they would respond appropriately.
Steve Williams, CEO of Intellicheck Mobilisa, the company that developed Aegeus for the Navym says the idea for the buoy was born after the USS Cole bombing in 2000 when technicians were searching for a way to detect threats in the water. The company placed it on a narrow stretch of the Potomac near the Harry Nice Memorial Bridge so it could help protect D.C. But Williams says the solar-powered Aegeus, which began bobbing in the river last fall, can also have an environmental mission.
"So let's say there’s an oil spill off shore somewhere," he says. "If you put the buoys somewhere off the shore line, you would be able to sense an oil spill way before it ever came ashore."
The buoy tests pH, salinity levels and algae blooms and then transmits the data to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's buoy center.
Randy Witter spent his career with the Maryland Natural Resources Police and now owns a marine construction company close to the buoy. He says while there's no substitute for humans, the buoy does have advantages.
"The state government and I don't think the federal government can pay people to come out here and sit 24 hours a day, seven days a week," says Witter.
And now, he says he feels a little bit safer. Because Aegeus is watching.