More than 25 equipment specialists, owners’ representatives and vessel operators from the superyacht, commercial shipping and naval communities attended a three-day event in Plymouth, UK, to witness demonstrations of Sonardyne’s Navigation and Obstacle Avoidance Sonar (NOAS). speaks with Ross Gooding, Sonardyne’s business development manager for maritime security, and Clay (Skip) Blair, an independent marine electronics engineer who was present at the demonstrations, to evaluate the effectiveness of the technology.

Sonardyne’s new NOAS system scans the area in front of a vessel using multiple sonar ‘pings’. These pings create a 3D picture of the upcoming sea floor and water column. The display informs users of water depth, underwater features and potential hazards to a range of up to 600m with a 90-degree field of view. NOAS also features a sonar mode for navigation and underwater intruder detection that operates out to a range of 1,500m with a 180-degree field of view.

“The key element, from the user perspective, is the development of the fully-integrated image,” starts Gooding. “One thing you notice with other systems is that every frame of the picture looks different. What we do is build up a full image of the sea bed so that every frame produced by a radar ping is integrated with the ones that came before.”

Of particular interest to the larger end of the superyacht spectrum is NOAS’s ability to temporarily retain a recent history of the vessel’s passage, as well as upcoming terrain, assisting captains with dynamic positioning operations.

“We hold the imagery in the history while it is on the display, so once a yacht has gone over an area the 3D picture of the seabed stays there, so if they need to turn around and navigate back out, they can do,” he continues.

“This is a very important fact,” agrees Blair. “If you have a large superyacht and you are going to put your nose somewhere it’s not supposed to be and you get the vessel turned around, in a shallow bay for example, this technology will be invaluable. During the tests this feature worked well.”

Gooding suggests that previously deployed competing products had not always lived up to the promises of their data sheets, an opinion that is shared by Blair. “The test was impressive compared to the competition. Other products that came out a long time ago left some users less than impressed relative to expectation,” he explains. “Sonardyne have produced what they are offering and demonstrated it effectually.”

The proof, as Blair points out, still remains in the pudding. Sonardyne’s system is a new one and may not be as effectual in every instance, a lesson that the competition learned the hard way. “Every boat is different and we cannot say today that it will definitely prove out, but we believe that it will,” he says.

One of the key differences that Blair cites in favour of Sonardyne’s system over competing products is that the NOAS system is designed exclusively for larger vessels. “Competing products can be put on smaller vessels and be very effective. In actual fact, there is a significant difference in hardware as well. This technology requires a large bulbous bow to allow for the hardware; the sensor itself is extremely important to the end result. Sonardyne has accomplished higher resolution and an understanding of what is really there to a significantly higher degree than preceding products,” he concludes.

Sonardyne’s NOAS technology is supported by an intuitive user interface of the kind that is a prerequisite for any emerging systems.

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