US-based company FarSounder and a University of Rhode Island researcher have begun commercial production of the FS-3, claimed to be the first 3-dimensional, forward-looking sonar designed as an aid to marine navigation.

With a range of 1,000 feet, a 90 degree field of view, and a refresh rate of just two seconds, the manufacturer says that the device will allow marine vessels to avoid collisions with submerged obstacles and "potentially save the marine industry US$2bn to US$3bn per year in direct and indirect damage costs".

The sonar costs between US$55,000 and US$65,000 and provides high-resolution images of common hazards such as submerged shipping containers, whales, coral reefs, buoys, rocks and coastal ledge

James Miller, a professor of ocean engineering at URI, where he began development of the technology along with former student Matthew Zimmerman, who is now FarSounder's vice president of engineering said: "This is a revolutionary leap for marine navigation, especially since most navigational charts in use today are more than 50 years old and many waterways are constantly changing."

The FS-3 is designed primarily for mid-size workboats (70-200 feet) like barges, tugs, offshore oil supply boats, research vessels, and ferries, but may also be of interest to operators of large recreational vessels and navies.