Stereo wave imaging of the sea surface elevation has become an effective instrumentation to gather small- and medium-range 3-D wind wave data. Indeed, fruitful-applications of stereo techniques have provided new insights into directional wave spectra, space-time distributions of wave maxima, and small-scale wave statistics. So far, however, stereo systems have been deployed mainly on fixed structures (e.g. oceanographic platforms or lighthouses) in order to simplify the installation and maintenance procedures. Nonetheless, advances in stereo calibration and processing suggest that stereo deployments are also feasible onboard moving vessels, thus broadening the impact of these observations on the study of wind waves. In this context, this study aims at discussing how the stereo processing designed to gather reliable wave data from fixed structures should be managed to operate on a moving structure. In particular, estimate of stereo cameras orientation and position with respect to the mean sea plane is of utmost importance. We discuss this aspect by using a synthetic sea state and stereo data collected during an oceanographic campaign onboard a research vessel. Results suggest that, without complementary data sources for ship motion compensation, the sea surface elevation field should include at least about sixteen spatial (2-D) waves to gather a robust estimate of the mean sea plane and consequently realistic wave parameters (e.g. the significant wave height). In this respect, our results provide also insight into the uncertainty of estimates in case of a limited number of 2-D waves is collected by the stereo system. Finally, applications of stereo wave imaging on a moving structure are discussed, with particular emphasis on the collection of space-time wave fields for assessment of numerical models and operational wave observation onboard vessels.
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