When deploying drifters and other similar instruments like this one, it is assumed a certain percentage will never be seen again. So more are deployed than the minimum needed in order to complete the study. This is especially true if the data collected while in the field cannot be downloaded on a frequent basis.
I would think that if the outer shell of this drifter is a soft plastic like polyethylene or has a closed cell foam fender
that surrounds it that the chance of damage to a boat would be next to nothing.
The only thing I would do different is to make it an ocean blue color so it is less likely to be spotted and plucked out of the water
by a passing boat. It could be recovered easily enough by its reported GPS
position. I would probably not have AIS
on it. Mariners would be too curious about an AIS
contact with no radar
return. I would also put up wire spikes so birds cannot poop on the solar cell.
I have deployed drifters that measure current
and other data on SF Bay
plenty of times and boaters are understandably super curious what these yellow spheres with an antenna
sticking up are. Going stealthy is probably the more likely way for this to work.