US Army Corps of Engineers
Engineer Research and Development Center Website

Field Research Facility

Published Nov. 21, 2012
An aerial view of ERDC Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory’s HL Field Research Facility, Duck, N.C.

An aerial view of ERDC Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory’s HL Field Research Facility, Duck, N.C.

Field Research Facility

Field Research Facility


The Field Research Facility (FRF) located in Duck, N.C. was established in 1977 to support the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' coastal engineering mission. The FRF is recognized as a premier location for coastal field studies. Central to the FRF is a 560-m-long steel and concrete research pier that extends to the ~7 m water depth contour.


Other facilities include a multipurpose conference room, 40-m observation tower, and specialized vehicles like the Coastal Research Amphibious Buggy (CRAB) and Lighter Amphibious Resupply Cargo (LARC-5). The 10-person staff of computer specialists, technicians, and oceanographers are known for their ability to collect data, design experiments and conduct research.

The CRAB (photo below) is equipped with centimeter-level Differential Global Positioning System (DGPS) and is used for precisely surveying from the beach out to the 9 m depth contour. It also serves as a stable platform for instrument deployments, side-scan sonar studies, vibracoring, sediment sampling and for towing instrument sleds. The LARC-5 is an Army amphibious vehicle that is used to deploy instruments, support diving activities, collect data and tow a variety of sensor and survey "sleds". The offshore operating range is 8 km (5 mi). An onboard crane can lift 400 kg (900 lb) and its total possible load is 5 tons (hence the 5 after LARC). Its maximum speed is approximately 5 knots in the water and 18-20 miles per hour on the road.


FRF research into weather, waves, currents, tides and beach change has had international impact. CRAB measurements have defined how beach and nearshore sand bars respond to seasonal and storm changes. Highly resolved wave information has provided new knowledge of the major forces that affect our coasts. Sediment transport data gathered during storms has revealed the strengths and weaknesses of our beach erosion prediction capabilities. These results and those of hundreds of investigators that have experimented at the FRF are used throughout the world.


The FRF is an ideal location for conducting a wide variety of coastal studies. Recent experiments have included such diverse topics as: providing ground-truth for Navy remote sensing and coordinating major surf zone experiments.

Potential users from industry, academia or government are encouraged to visit the FRF web site.

Points of Contact

Contact: Dr. Jeffrey Waters

Phone: (252) 261-6840 x229


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