Integrating Diver Detection into Yacht Security Systems

  • Posted on: 17 October 2014
  • By: Matthew Zimmerman
Diver to be detected
Open circuit diver
Fixed installation sensors
Multiple, fixed sensors provide 360° without costly hydraulic deployment.
FarSounder's diver detection software for yachts
FarSounder's SPS software in diver detection mode. A diver is automatically detected, tracked and classified (in red) on top of the chart. Selecting that track shows a waterfall display with a clear acoustic image of the diver.
Navy Sonar Operator - Used under Creative Commons license:
Navy sonar operator
FarSounder diver detection capabilities integrated into L3-SAM command and control software
FarSounder's diver detection capabilities integrated into L3-SAM command and control software.

As the size and complexity of large yachts has evolved, so has the level of sophistication of their security systems. Simply having door locks and a few cameras is no longer suitable for today’s largest super-yachts. Common security equipment includes: thermal and night vision cameras, motion sensors, deck pressure sensors, RFID based access controls, and high resolution radars. FarSounder’s Ship Protection System adds underwater surveillance to the suite of sensors available to a yacht’s security team. Such a large variety of data sources can easily overwhelm crew. In such cases, a well thought-out, integrated security solution is required.

Security Design Vision

The most effective security designs are those which are considered early in the vessel’s design. Some basic decisions early in the design process will greatly improve the efficacy of a given security solution.

For example, some important questions are:

  1. Who will be monitoring the system; the bridge officers or a dedicated security team?

  2. From where will the system be monitored? Will there be a separate security room or station on the bridge?

  3. How is the information from the different systems displayed and evaluated? Will they be integrated into a central command and control system?

Additionally, it is important that the shipyard understands the space requirements for the various pieces of equipment. The sonar sensors used in the FarSounder Ship Protection System are installed with a fixed installation integrated into the hull of the ship. They do not require any large or expensive hydraulic deployment systems. Whereas many other diver detection systems require a large mechanical space in the center of the vessel or a crane structure over the side of the ship to deploy their sonar sensors.

Making it Easy to Understand

Unlike a navy ship, it is not always reasonable to expect a highly trained sonar operator to be part of the yacht’s security monitoring team. The Ship Protection System’s operator is likely monitoring other security sensors at the same time and perhaps also standing watch on the bridge. This means that the diver detection sonar used on board a yacht must be easy to use and simple to understand.

Unlike other technologies, which stem from a military background, FarSounder’s products are focused on the unique requirements of the commercial and private vessel markets. FarSounder software includes a stand alone user interface which clearly shows automatically detected diver tracks on top of a nautical chart. The user can select any of the tracks to manually confirm the automatic detections. This gives the operator a clear picture of what’s around the vessel, under the water.

3rd Party Command and Control Systems

With all the various sensors available to the ship’s security team, monitoring can be a challenging effort. For this reason, many security designs involve a centralized command and control system. The intent of a centralized system is to provide a clear summary of the combined outputs from multiple sensors in a single display.

Output from the FarSounder system can be input to a 3rd party system via a network interface. This interface includes all detection, track, and classification information as well waterfall data. Using data from this interface, the centralized command and control system could, for example, include a digital chart witsh radar, sonar, and AIS tracks overlayed. Depending upon the system’s level of sophistication, electing a sonar track could automatically bring up the associated waterfall display and slew thermal imaging cameras to the same location.

In the most advanced designs, the centralized command and control system can even combine detections and classifications from multiple sensors to provide an even higher level of classification confidence. For example, the central command and control could correlate between radar and sonar tracks as well as include any image processing from the cameras.

Situational Awareness and Decision Making

The goal of any security system is to provide advanced warning of incoming threats. However, the communication of these warnings and verification of the threats must be made simple for the operators. Good situational awareness makes this process easier (which translates into quicker and safer).

Along these lines, we urge our customers to consider the entire security solution, not just a single component when thinking about their design. For example, if the security monitoring station is going to be in a dedicated security room, then repeaters for some of the bridge’s navigation displays would be helpful in improving situational awareness. Long range navigation radar and AIS data is really helpful in understanding what’s going on outside the vessel.

Network Design Considerations

Lastly, the security system should be considered a critical system. Like the navigation and propulsion systems, when the guests and crew are enjoying the AV system, streaming media from the internet or using the phone system, the security system should not be affected by heavy network load. The navigation and propulsion systems are usually on their own (sometime redundant) networks. However, the security system often rides along on the same network as the AV and phone system.

Many captains are familiar with mottled images from IP based camera systems. This can often be attributed to bottlenecks somewhere on the network. When so much time and money is invested in the security system sensors, the network design should not be ignored or just an afterthought. We strongly recommend placing all the security systems on their own dedicated network.


Diver detection can play an important role in super-yacht security systems. Choosing the right system and implementing a well thought out security design is critical in successfully deploying an effective security solution. FarSounder’s Ship Protection System has been designed for this specific application. It is the only diver detection system on the market which:

  • Uses a fixed sensor installation,

  • Offers forward looking navigation capabilities when the vessel is underway,

  • Is designed with super-yacht customers in mind.

FarSounder’s engineering team is available to discuss your diver detection and vessel security requirements.