General Questions about 3D FLS technology

FarSounder’s 3D Navigation Sonar would make an excellent navigation tool for Coast Guard vessels including the fast response cutters and work vessels such as the buoy tenders by helping advance the Coast Guard’s missions for maritime safety, the prevention of loss of human life, and pollution prevention activities.

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.

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.

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.

Yes. FarSounder’s systems have been specifically designed to be used while the vessel is 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.

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.

Yes. In fact, FarSounder’s 3D Navigation Sonar has been in use by commercial vessels and yachts in polar regions since 2006.

Generally, the fairing must be installed while the vessel is in dry dock. However, once the fairing is installed, the Transducer Module can be installed and removed underwater. The back of the Transducer Module has an underwater, wet-mateable connector. We recommend keeping the cable plugged and the fairing covered with a plate if the Transducer Module will be removed for an extended period of time.

Navigation Sonars

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.

These products have been replaced by the FarSounder-500 and FarSounder-1000 products. These new products feature longer range performance, redesigned electronics, and better software all in the same form factor.

Our newest software release still supports the FS-3DT and FS-3ER sonars.

As of SonaSoft™ Version 2.6, in-water targets can displayed as an overlay on top of Jeppesen's C-Map ENC and Professional+ charts inside FarSounder's user interface software. In order to comply with Jeppesen lisencing requirements, users must install a USB dongle key on every computer which will display the charts. Users must also purchase the chart data either direct from Jeppesen or through a Jeppesen Dealer.

The USB dongle can be purchased as an option for all FarSounder-500 and FarSounder-1000 sonars. Existing customers should contact FarSounder directly for purchasing details.

Other systems that are called Forward Looking Sonars do actually look forward but they are only able to discern information in 2 dimensions. Generally, they can tell the user that there is an object at a particular bearing and range, but they cannot tell the user if the object is at the surface, in the water column, or on the sea bottom. They simply have one horizontal slice through the water. These systems are unable to tell the user if the object is 5 feet below the surface or 50 feet below the surface. Some 2D systems even go as far as to have a second array giving one vertical slice through the water. However, in this configuration, the vertical slice can only give the user information about the range and depth of an object, it cannot tell the user at what bearing the object is located ahead of the vessel. Even the most advanced 2D system cannot correlate between the vertical and horizontal slice.

A simple depth sounder or echosounder is a 1D sonar. These systems simply tell the user the depth directly below the sounder. They are not able to warn the user about the rock, submerged shipping container, sandbar, whale, boat, or other obstacle ahead of the vessel. In the very worst of cases, if the sounder is located in the stern of the vessel, the bow may actually be grounded on an obstacle while the sounder continues to tell the operator that there is still water below the keel.

Traditional sonar technology and products are able to generate 1D and 2D images. FarSounder's approach to sonar is fundamentally different than traditional sonars and is able to generate 3D images in realtime for a large field of view ahead of a vessel. We are able to offer the ship operator a complete picture and deliver the most basic and important piece of information for marine navigation: What is ahead of the vessel.

No. Our systems are entirely solid state and do not have any moving parts.

Unlike some systems which take up to 90 seconds to complete a large field of view scan ahead of the vessel, the FarSounder-500 generates a high resolution, full field of view image once every 1 second. FarSounder technology is able to give the user a near realtime picture ahead of the vessel. Longer range systems such as the new FarSounder-1000 generate a high resolution, full field of view image once every 2 seconds.

Angular resolution is a property of a receive transducer array and its associated beamformer. Angular resolution is the ability to discern objects at different angles. This is important in separating objects from each other. In general, traditional signal processing techniques are able to generate angular resolutions of approximately 50/L where L is the array's length in wavelengths. FarSounder is able to generate angular resolutions one to two orders of magnitude better through the use of proprietary processing algorithms.

Both the FarSounder-500 and the FarSounder-1000 have been designed to detect targets that are navigation obstacles for vessels from 60 feet (20 meters) and 650 feet (200 meters). In general, if a vessel cares about hitting the object, we can detect it. If the vessel does not care about hitting the object, we do not detect it well. For example, we can see navigation buoys but we cannot see most fish well (although the fish may care about being hit by a 100m vessel, the 100m vessel usually does not care).

Of course, FarSounder's core technology is very flexible and easily configurable. We can easily design a custom system to detect objects of almost any size depending upon the needs.

Currently, our navigation systems perform LOCALIZATION. That is to say, we can tell you WHERE something is. Telling you WHAT something is called CLASSIFICATION. Classification is a technology that we use for our security products.

The current products have been designed to operate even under moderate sea conditions. Of course, in larger wave environments, smaller surface targets will be lost in the surface clutter. LIKE ANY MARINE ELECTRONICS SENSOR, the systems will not function well under the most extreme conditions. Quantitative results depend upon many factors including: hull mounting method, sea state, vessel speed, water temperature, wind speed, etc. Generally, the deeper the Transducer Module is installed, the better the system operates in higher sea states.

The current FarSounder-500 and FarSounder-1000 designs are limited to 50 meters (~150 feet) maximum depth. This is a design choice that was made because most vessels that have a draft of more than 50 meters are usually called ship wrecks (a little sonar engineer humor). The core technology is very flexible and can be customized to meet other needs if greater than 50 meters depth is required.

Water depth performance is how far away (in multiples of the depth of water below the transducer), depth information can be measured. THIS IS THE KEY FOR SHALLOW WATER OPERATION.

Detection Range is how far away a target of a certain size can be DETECTED. But detection is different from localization.

FarSounder can accurately tell you the depth of a target consistently for at least 8 water depths, (in practice we have many data sets of 12-18 water depth performance for some bottom types and conditions). Beyond FarSounder's water depth performance capability, if a big target is detected, range and bearing to the target can be calculated and displayed. However, the depth of the target is not neccessarily known.

Read this tech blog posting to learn more about the physics behind water depth performance.

Just as RADAR does not give altitude above the water but can still be a useful tool, detection at beyond water depth capabilities can also be a useful tool.

No. We operate at similar sound levels and frequencies as dolphins. In fact, the National Marine Fisheries Service sponsored the development of our technology to non-invasively study whales. They have evaluated our FS-3DT product* and stated: "NOAA's Ocean Acoustics Program (NMFS Office of Science and Technology), has assessed the technical specifications of the current version of the FarSounder sonar technology and concurs that, based on the sound source level, signal duration, directionality, and operational frequency band, there are no anticipated injurious effects on marine mammals or other marine species from its deployment."

* Note that our current products (the FarSounder-500. FarSounder-1000 and FS-SPS sonars) operate at similar frequencies, sound pressure levels, ping rates, and pulse durations as the evaluated FS-3DT.

CASS (Collision Avoidance Sonar System), FLS (Forward Looking Sonar), and OAS (Obstacle Avoidance Sonar) are all names which can be used interchangeably when describing a sonar system which looks ahead and is used for navigation. Although there are many products on the market with these names, only FarSounder's products are capable of creating a complete 3D image ahead of the vessel at navigationally significant ranges with a single ping.

FarSounder's user interface software processes and displays the 3D Forward Looking Sonar information generated by the sonar. In order to take advantage of our latest in-water target stabilization and chart overlay capabilities, GPS and heading sensor information must be connected to the bridge computer via NMEA. 

NMEA information is passed into the software via the user interface computer's COM port. If your computer only has USB, a serial to USB converter can be used. If you wish to read multiple NMEA streams with one COM port, a NMEA multiplexer can be used. Some multiplexers even have a built in USB converter.

The software also includes a conning display for GPS, Heading, Speed and Echosounder information. If speed and echosounder information are included in the NMEA connection, they will be displayed.

Ship Protection Systems

The FS-SPS underwater threat detection capability is designed to operate while the vessel is on anchor or at dock. However, should a threat be detected, one option available to FarSounder customers is to immediately make way. Unlike other products, the FS-SPS is not deployed via cables or hydraulic mounts. This means that a speedy departure can be used without risk to the equipment.

While underway, the system can be switched to forward looking sonar mode and used as a navigation sonar using the same hardware.

FarSounder's Ship Protection Systems are capable of automatically detecting, tracking, and classifying diver threats at tactically significant ranges in real-world environments. The maximum detection range stronlgy depends on the environmental conditions where the system is being used including: water depth, underwater bathymetry, and sound speed profile. These parameters can all vary with geographic location and tidal cycles. FarSounder engineers have developed a sophisticated Sonar Performance Prediction tool to model the propagation effects impacted by these environmental parameters. This tool is used to model the performance of our sonars and is validated with in-water tests using both open circuit scuba divers and closed circuit rebreather divers.

Unlike other companies who like to talk about their product's performance in optimal propagation conditions, FarSounder engineers have designed our underwater threat detection capabilities for effective performance even in less than optimal conditions. Our exact perfomance metrics and capabilities are not shared on our web site, since such information is valuable for designing countermeasures and may require export licenses. Please contact us directly to discuss these metrics further.

The FS-SPS includes complete command and control software with an easy to use operator interface. The operator interface includes vector chart capability for threat track overlays. Therefore, direct integration with 3rd party ECDIS systems is not necessary. However, the software is also capable of outputting track informtion to 3rd party ECDIS systems via an ethernet based API. FarSounder staff are always happy to discuss specific, customized interface options if needed. Please contact FarSounder directly for further details.

No, the FS-SPS uses a completely separate signal processing system and includes capabilities not present in FarSounder's navigation products. However, the Transducer Modules used in the FS-SPS are the same units used in the FarSounder-1000 navigation sonar.

FarSounder's FS-SPS offers numerous advantages over other diver detection products. Three primary differntiators are:

  1. FS-SPS uses fixed installation transducers, negating the need to use large hydraulic mounts and allowing for fast departures.
  2. The software for the FS-SPS has been developed explicitly for ease of use, making this product suitable for yachts, passenger vessels, and commercial ships who do not have navy sonar operators on board.
  3. When underway, the same hardware provides forward looking navigation sonar capabilities similar to the FarSounder-1000.

    Ease of use is a major differentiator between FarSounder's underwater threat detection systems and products by other companies. Complete user training is included with every FS-SPS. Included in the cost of each system is on site FarSounder engineering support for customer sea trails. This way, the end user can gain experience using the system with real divers. 

    Unlike navy sonars which require specially trained sonar operators, we've designed our systems with ship operators in mind. FarSounder is the only company offering a Ship Protection System with extensive experience in providing easy to use sonar solutions for the yacht and commercial vessel markets.