Off the beaten track with an extra eye

With a private yacht you can sail wherever you want to go. But as you go searching for that perfect private beach, the challenge is that the remote area is seldom navigated. That's where a forward-looking sonar comes in handy.

Wärtsilä Electrical & Automation has integrated forward-looking sonar into its Wärtsilä NACOS Platinum bridge system, making it easier for customers such as mega yachts, expedition cruise ships and specialist cargo vessels to navigate safely in remote areas where sea charts cannot be relied upon.

The application, which was delivered to the first customer in October, takes sonar data from a FarSounder 3D sonar, and makes it possible to display and operate the sonar from up to four NACOS workstations.

Maik Stoevhase, Senior Vice President at Wärtsilä Electrical & Automation Business Line, said that the integration would allow those operating vessels to view the sea floor, detect underwater threats, and receive alerts without having to learn a new interface or install additional equipment on the bridge.

"We basically give the system another eye, we give it another anti-collision feature, forward-looking and under water, and seamlessly integrate it into the Wärtsilä NACOS Platinum product suite," he said.

This means that the human machine interface, the look and feel of all the controls, are now identical: no matter whether you are using standard radars, working with gyro information, AIS or VDR information, or now, working with forward-looking sonar information, it is all on the same product platform, on the same human-machine interface."

Wärtsilä recently carried out a first integration project for the NACOS Platinum bridge system it is supplying to a new mega yacht.

"Mega yacht owners have a tendency to want to go to remote places which may not be sufficiently charted, going close to a beach or whatever, and a forward-looking sonar allows them to do this." Stoevhase said.

The integration has been carried out in partnership with the US marine electronics manufacturer FarSounder.

Unlike traditional scanning sonar devices, which use a single transducer to send a ping of sound in one direction and then record the echo, the FarSounder-500 and FarSounder-1000 devices send out a wide beam of sound, and then use a phased array of receivers to record echoes from multiple angles.

This means that instead of needing to send multiple pings to create an image of the sea bed ahead, a FarSounder device can map it in 3D with a single ping.

Opening a FarSounder tab on a Wärtsilä NACOS MULTIPILOT workstation brings up a 3D image of the sea floor 1,000m ahead of the ship, together with a 2D image of water depths along the vessel's present course, and a list of alerts.

The sonar data can be viewed alone, or on a split screen together with charts, weather, or other data.

Torsten Galaske, navigation and communications sales manager for Wärtsilä SAM Electronics, said that he expected the market for the new NACOS capability to extend beyond mega yachts.

"Recently we had one of the major cruise brands here in our factory and they looked at it and were impressed, so it is definitely an option for smaller cruise ships which go to remote areas," he said.

Stoevhase said that the sonar integration showed the adaptability of the Wärtsilä NACOS Platinum system.

"Integrating the Farsounder´s forward-looking Sonar is an impressive example of the flexible and open architecture of Wärtsilä NACOS Platinum, which leads to a unique functionality and user-friendliness," he said.

Wärtsilä Electrical & Automation intends to continue to increase the number of applications which can be viewed and controlled through the NACOS interface.

"With the same level of integration, we have recently undertaken to integrate a CCTV system, and on the navigation side we have now integrated ocean currents, tidal information, and weather information of all kinds, including wave size," Galaske said. "We use all this data within the navigation system to optimise route planning and route execution, and we will do further development in this direction."