FarSounder's Technology Blog
From time to time, FarSounder's development team likes to toot their own horn and tell the world about some of the cool things they are working on. We can't share all our secrets and development plans, but we can share some of the excitement that our engineers experience every day working for FarSounder.
All winter we’ve been busy working on the next generation of our navigation sonar capabilities. Image quality and user experience have been our primary focus, and this fall we’re launching a major software update for our 3D forward looking sonar products. Though you’ll need to wait for SMM and the Monaco Yacht Show for the official launch to learn about all the new features, we gave a sneak peek of some of them at our recent customer demos and technical training class.
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. The time is ripe for navigation sonar to become more recognized on the bridge and its use should be integrated into standard operating procedures.
The world is changing course in terms of how we communicate with each other, how we manage our working environment and how new information is generated. It is not difficult for any of us to imagine how we would achieve any of these without connecting with the Internet. For the maritime industry, it is fast becoming a case not of ‘if’ but ‘when’ and ‘how’ to join the Internet revolution. From the navigation point of view, “modern” connectivity will lead to improved situational awareness and better chart updates. As the gathering of accurate navigational data becomes more widespread and routine, this data can be passed on instantly to authorities and other mariners. Crowd sourced depth measurements will one day be incorporated into the chart updating process and ECDIS displays.
After a busy trade show season, we finally have the time to process what we've seen and learned over the past few months. One thing that is clear: unlike when we started over 11 years ago, we rarely get asked "What is forward looking sonar?". The marine industry now seems to accept forward looking sonar as an important part of the navigation systems on board modern vessels. One question we are now asked is "How is your sonar different than [fill in the blank]?". We believe that our products are the only products which generate a complete, easy to use navigation picture ahead of the vessel at navigationally significant ranges. Rather than trying to compare our apple to every other orange, we feel it's better to educate customers about the features, metrics and characteristics that we think they should be evaluating when considering a 3D FLS. For this blog posting, FarSounder's CEO has put together a short video explaining how forward looking sonar can be used for safe navigation.
Our navigation sonars have been designed for ease of operation on a variety of vessels, from small yachts to large commercial vessels. We've spent countless hours refining our user interface designs and improving the signal processing that enables our sonars to look ahead at navigationally significant ranges. Part of the power of our systems is that we don't force the user to conform to one particular mindset: users can operate with color mapped to depth or color mapped to signal strength; the 3D sonar display can be set to a top down orthographic projection or a rotatable 3D perspective; we offer a profile display which slices a vertical strip through the 3D data. The list goes on and on. Along the way, we try to make these displays natural and lead the user to their ideal configuration. We know that everyone visualizes the world around them differently and we continually solicit input from our users on how make our user interfaces work best for them. In this blog posting, we highlight some best practices that we recommend when using our software.
When evaluating a diver detection sonar system, one of the most basic metrics to consider is threat detection range. To be effective, the system must provide underwater surveillance with good coverage out to a tactically significant range. Many diver detection systems advertise their maximum detection ranges. However, most of these ranges are under optimal acoustic propagation conditions. In reality, the local underwater environment can greatly affect the maximum performance of all types of sonar systems. To evaluate if a particular underwater intrusion system meets your needs, it is not enough to only understand what your minimum detection range requirements are. You must also determine if the system is capable of detecting an intruder at that range in real-world conditions. In this blog posting, we will explore how to determine such detection range requirements.
When the temperatures start to drop well below freezing, most of the boat traffic on the Narragansett Bay disappears. Even if we would prefer to stay indoors by a fire or head for warmer waters, the FarSounder engineering team continues on water testing new sonar innovations. Recently, a few of the team boat tested FarSounder's latest 3D forward looking sonar equipment: our new bulkhead mount Power Module and our new flat faced Transducer Module option for the FarSounder-1000 and SPS systems. Though setting up the equipment in the morning was quite frigid, we had beautiful calm waters, interacted with a pod of porpoises and spent a little time watching harbor seals bask on the rocks. We thought we'd share a little bit of a "typical" work day on the water.
FarSounder's engineers spend a lot of their time working with customers to understand their navigation sonar needs. We strive to design our 3D FLS products with a good balance of performance metrics. However, our systems are more than just hardware. The software display is an important component, too, and as the saying goes, "a picture is worth a thousand words". That's why we've invested heavily in our operator interface, making a system that is easy to operate and easy to understand. Let's take a closer look at some of these features.
As with many technical products, understanding the differences between navigation sonar products sold by different vendors can be confusing. Much of the technical product literature can be confusing with different companies assigning different meanings to similar terms. At trade shows, we are often asked "What's the difference between Company X's product and yours?" or "Which is a better? FarSounder's sonars or Company B's sonars?". We don't like to presume we know every detail about every sonar on the market. Rather, we believe that once a customer understands which metrics they should be considering they can easily choose the best "look ahead sonar" for them. For our customers' class of ships, we're confident that they will choose a FarSounder. In this blog posting, we'll take a look at what we feel are the most important metrics you should use to compare forward looking sonars: Coverage Zone and Update Rate.
When looking at our software's 3D Sonar display it is sometimes difficult to correlate what we see on the screen to what we see (or don't see) out the bridge window. However, many users are used to correlating what they see on a radar display, especially if they have a radar overlay on top of electronic nautical charts. In our continuing efforts to improve user experience, we've recently added chart overlay of in-water sonar targets to our software. This enables users to more quickly and easily make the jump from what they see on the sonar's display to where potential navigation obstacles are located.