Pioneer MAB Array Relocation

The NSF OOI Pioneer Array was initiated in 2016 as a re-locatable coastal array suitable for moderate wave and current regimes on the continental shelf and upper slope. The Pioneer Array was located off the coast of New England and consisted of cross-shelf moored arrays and autonomous vehicles that enabled examination of upwelling, shelf break fronts, and cross-shelf exchanges.

After a two-phase Innovations Lab series between January and June of 2021, NSF proposed the Mid-Atlantic Bight as the new location for the Pioneer Array. The Pioneer Array has been relocated off the coast of North Carolina in early 2024 after an environmental review was conducted. The Pioneer Array consists of a mooring array supplemented by glider and AUV transects.

More information on the relocation process and further details about the environmental review can be found below and here.

Proposed MAB Pioneer Array regions. The red box indicates the region where moorings would be located and the larger green box indicates the region where mobile assets (gliders and AUVs) would operate. Image and caption from OOI website.

Environmental Review

NSF’s proposal to relocate the Pioneer Array to the MAB is currently undergoing environmental review.  As part of that process, NSF will comply with various environmental laws and regulatory processes, including but not limited to, the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA), the Coastal Zone Management Act (CZMA), and the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

NSF is currently preparing NEPA documentation for the Proposed Action which will tier to existing OOI NEPA documentation. When issued, the NEPA documentation for the Pioneer Array relocation to the MAB will be available on the NSF website and the public will be invited to comment on the Proposed Action.  NSF will take into consideration all comments received during the open comment period and through other regulatory processes; comments received will be addressed in final NEPA documentation prepared for the action. 

Additional information about the Proposed Action, including the research and technologies planned, is also available on the project website at:

Planning Activities

Phase 1 Innovations Lab

  • January 13, 2021 – The Pioneer Array Phase 1 Micro Lab was held by the NSF and OOIFB to answer questions about a potential Pioneer Array move.
  • March 15-19, 2021 – The Pioneer Array Phase 1 Innovations Lab was held to provide recommendations on the next location for the Pioneer Array. 
  • April 30, 2021 – NSF proposes the next location of the OOI Coastal Pioneer Array is the Mid-Atlantic Bight (MAB).

Phase 2 Innovations Lab

  • May 3-31, 2021 – Applications to participate in the Pioneer Array Phase 2 Innovations Lab were open.
  • May 12, 2021 – The Pioneer Array Phase 2 Micro Lab was held.
  • June 21-25, 2021 – The Pioneer Array Phase 2 Innovations Lab was held to collect recommendations on how the Pioneer Array configuration could be optimized at the Mid Atlantic Bight.

Post Innovations Lab

  • The OOI Website has detailed Planning Updates and will continue to post updates as they occur.

Historical Information

Pioneer Array – Questions and Answers (posted Dec 2020) – This web page describes the application process for participating in the Phase 1 Innovations Lab. It also offers questions and answers related to a potential Pioneer Array relocation.

Process and Goals for selecting a new location of the Pioneer Array (posted Dec 2020) – This web page describes the Innovations Lab approach, process and goals for considering a potential relocation of the Pioneer Array.

Technical considerations for relocating the Pioneer Array (posted Jan 2021)

Why relocate the Pioneer Array? (posted Dec 2020)

OOI Pioneer Array proposed to relocate to MAB (Initially posted in April 2021, with an update posted in August 2023) – This web page describes how community members could apply for the Phase 2 Innovations Lab and describes the goals and process for optimizing the Pioneer Array in the proposed MAB location.