Tapping into New Ideas: University of Rhode Island ELECOMP Capstone Program
This past year, FarSounder partnered with the University of Rhode Island ELECOMP Capstone Program. The program allows students to work with local businesses on designing, building, programming, and testing solutions to real-world problems. It is not only educational for the students, but also helps to provide educated workers to Rhode Island state’s businesses. At FarSounder, students have benefited from hands-on experience with our high-tech sonar while working to apply theory from their studies to practice.
FarSounder collaborated with two URI senior-level engineering students, Thomas Lott and Cole Boulanger, on a project involving their sonar products. FarSounder’s 3D Forward Looking Sonar (FLS) products feature a Transducer Module that transmits acoustic energy and “listens” for returning echoes over an array of acoustic sensors. The received acoustic signals are then digitized and processed to produce a three-dimensional representation of navigation hazards in front of the vessel.
The FarSounder Transducer Module has an integrated roll and pitch sensor to accurately measure the position of the boat from the time it sent out its signal to the time it receives it. Due to the constant motion of a floating vessel, the position of the Transducer Module, particularly its roll and pitch, needs to be measured. This supports accurate placement of objects on the FarSounder screen. However, the sensor currently being used to measure it is large enough to require a mounting bracket with associated hardware and cabling, and also requires manual configuration. New technologies coming to the market allow for less expensive and physically smaller devices. The goal is to take advantage of these new components.
FarSounder saw this as the perfect project for the URI Capstone program. The students were set on a track to explore sensors that are able to produce the same or better data at a lesser cost to FarSounder. They took part in a mixture of system engineering, hardware, and firmware tasks in order to formulate a solution.
FarSounder sonar products improve safety and provide new exploration opportunities for vessels. Due to existing products detecting navigation hazards long distances (up to 1,000 meters away), it is crucial for the sensors to have an accurate reference on which to base the data.
The work done by Cole and Thomas uncovered a few options that could be implemented. Their solutions will allow FarSounder’s core product to be easier to assemble and service, while saving money on materials. This is the first step towards making it possible to design new products that demand physically smaller sizes, ultimately leading to new market opportunities.
By improving upon these sensors, new products may be able to better detect and represent hazards to navigation and possibly help avoid catastrophe at sea. FarSounder ultimately envisions a wider line of products with price and performance points suitable for all vessels utilizing a radar.