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The present invention describes a wireless system and method for distributing sensors in large numbers that makes possible the application of a number of algorithms for the extraction of important physical quantities. More specifically, the method involves (a) formation of an electromagnetic waveguide by the application of a polymer, or other dielectric material, on the exterior of the hull of a vessel; (b) insertion of sensors/radio units within the waveguide, the sensors being arranged to sample the fields of interest; and (c) insertion of radio transceiver base stations in the waveguide to communicate and extract data from the sensor/radio units. The wireless system of the present invention is implemented with a very high sensor count whose outputs are processed to recover exterior field quantities without the requirement of direct measurements off of the vessel's structure.