Does your bridge include 3D navigation sonar yet?

  • Posted on: 19 February 2014
  • By: cheryl.zimmerman
3D Navigation Sonar operating near shore
Navigation sonar operating near shore.
Bridge with sonar and radar
Ship's bridge with sonar and radar displayed.
Bridge with sonar and chart
Ship's bridge with sonar and chart displayed.

Forward-looking 3D navigation sonars have been available as an off-the-shelf tool for mariners since 2006. These products have a track record proving themselves as valuable navigation tools. These products have improved safety and operational efficiencies in a variety of marine environments. Historically, FLS technology has not been integrated into bridge systems and our products are often installed at the request of ship operators, captains and vessel owners as separate stand alone systems.

Although forward-looking 3D navigation sonar is not yet required by the IMO, coast guards, the insurance industry or other regulatory bodies, FarSounder sonars are used globally in all sorts of challenging marine environments. Our sonars:

  • have crossed the Northwest Passage,
  • avoid obstacles in shallow, reef filled areas,
  • are used in the Arctic and Antarctic regions, and
  • are installed on OSVs, Passenger Vessels, Survey Vessels, Research Vessels, and Yachts.

Over the years, the borders between radar and chart have been blurred as radars have become more fully integrated into bridge systems with chart, AIS and other overlays. We at FarSounder believe that FLS plays as important a role as radar. This is particularly true when navigating in extreme conditions, such as polar, shallow water or poorly charted areas. Aside from helping protect an asset (the vessel) and avoid environmental damage from groundings (oil spills, reef damage, etc.), FLS plays a role in protecting the safety of those on board the ship. Shouldn't all types of passenger vessels use this technology?

The time is ripe for navigation sonar to become more recognized on the bridge and its use should be integrated into standard operating procedures. On how many more tragic groundings and collisions are we to gamble people's lives, ship assets, insurance company money, and the environment, before 3D navigation sonars are more widely adopted as standard equipment and as a requirement for certain categories of vessels or operating regions? This vision is shared by many in the industry as is evidenced by the integration of these systems into ECDIS and ECS systems, by such companies as Transas and Sperry Marine.

There are sometimes misconceptions and questions about new technologies and their operation. In an effort to "clear these waters", we have put together a new list of FAQs specifically relevant to the subject:


How does 3D Navigation Sonar fit in with current systems on a vessel?

3D navigation sonar shows you hazards in the water ahead of your vessel. It fills a critical gap left by the traditional navigation systems (Radar, Charts, Depth Sounder) on a vessel.

Do your systems see far enough to be useable while underway? Will I have enough time to respond when it detects a hazard?

Yes. FarSounder’s systems have been specifically designed for vessels underway. With 1000 meters of range and operational speeds up to 25 knots, FarSounder’s 3D navigation sonars are the only solution appropriate for mid-sized vessels that enables day and night monitoring of hazards ahead of the boat. The use of a FarSounder system can substantially reduce the probability of a collision with a submerged object.

Will this make a bridge more complicated to operate?

Not at all, as FarSounder’s systems are easy to use. Furthermore, for vessels desiring an integrated system, FarSounder’s navigation data is available within systems such as Transas Navi-Sailor 4000 and Sperry Marine’s Vision Master Products.

How many transducers are installed with your system? Are there moving parts?

One transducer is installed and there are no moving parts. We use advanced software algorithms to build a 3D image from our single static transducer.

How much training is required to use FarSounder’s sonar?

Our primary requirement is that the system is easy to use. Typically, a user can be up and running with the system after a brief training session.

Do FarSounder’s systems work in Polar regions?

Yes. In fact, FarSounder’s 3D navigation sonar has been used by commercial vessels and yachts in polar regions since 2006.

Are FarSounder’s 3D Navigation Sonars cost effective solutions for commercial vessels?

Yes. The cost of the sonar is minimal in comparison to the cost of a collision or grounding, the costs of lost business due to downtime and negative publicity, and the costs of environmental damage and penalties.

Would government vessels benefit from including FarSounder’s system?

FarSounder’s 3D navigation sonar would make an excellent navigation tool for coast guard, defense and military vessels as well as administrations responsible for such missions as surveying, offshore renewable resources and fisheries.

Helping advance countries coast guard missions such as maritime safety, the prevention of loss of human life, and pollution prevention activities are areas where FarSounder sonars can be beneficial.