Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Nav/Com: What's New in Bridge Electronics

Suppliers of marine electronics, communication services and navigation software continue to advance technologies that make fishing more productive and efficient while keeping the end-user experience as easy as possible.

Furuno introduced the GP1670F and GP1870F, part of the 5.7” and 7” Chart Plotter series, last spring. Jeff Kauzlaric, Advertising and Communications Manager, reports that both of these units can be used for small to mid-sized commercial vessels and have the Furuno Fish Finder built-in. “You can rig it as a 600-W or 1-kW Fish Finder, and it also includes a couple of our newest features, Bottom Discrimination and Accu-Fish,” he says.

When connected to an appropriate transducer, the Bottom Discrimination feature provides a graphical display showing the characteristics of the seafloor as either mud, sand, gravel or rock. This works well, especially when bottom fishing when fishermen are looking for a particular species that lies on a certain type of bottom.

The Accu-Fish feature offers a fish size assessment function that can tell fishermen the approximate size of the fish below the boat. Fish symbols appear on the screen, along with the size of the fish or the depth where it found the fish. It can detect fish size from four inches up to about six feet long, in depths of seven feet to well over 300 feet of water. Both units also feature built-in WAAS/GPS antennas, along with the capability to utilize the very latest C-MAP 4-D charts. For fishermen who may have the Furuno GP1650F or GP1850F and would like to replace it, Furuno offers an adaptor mounting bezel that allows for easy replacement.

The Easy Routing feature automatically constructs a route between two points, taking into consideration preset values for safe depths, safe heights, and the boats width to provide the captain with an estimated safe route. Fishermen can either use saved waypoints or newly created points for this feature. Easy Routing will analyze the path between the two points and will create a route, inserting legs in the route when necessary to get the boat away from areas which exceed the safety values set in the menu. “Easy Routing is a great aid to navigation and should be used in conjunction with conventional navigation practices,” says Kauzlaric. “The captain should always analyze the route against official nautical publications and situational awareness.”

Furuno’s DFF1-UHD TruEcho CHIRP Network Sounder works with both NavNet 3-D and NavNet TZtouch Multi Function Displays. TruEcho CHIRP sweeps across 90 frequencies simultaneously, while transmitting 1,000 times more power than traditional fish finders. This results in better bottom clarity, depth penetration, picture resolution and target definition with the ability to view individual game fish and bait fish, even when tightly schooled together or very near the sea floor. The DFF1-UHD also gives the ability to utilize Furuno’s Bottom Discrimination and Accu-Fish features.

Kauzlaric says the integration of navigation electronics and fish finding technology will continue over the next several years. “There will certainly always be a need for stand-alone, specialty electronics, but as the technology gets more advanced, the capabilities of the units will continue to increase. So creating Multi Function Displays that incorporate different technologies, such as CHIRP and Sonar, is natural,” he says. “Also, more hybrid type of displays will make their way into commercial fishing, units that incorporate both touch screens and button controls. You will even see your fish finder screen in the palm of your hand, while you are standing on the back deck, utilizing a WiFi connection.”

In June, Jeppesen announced its new C-MAP MAX-N Wide cartography, compatible with Navico navigation systems such as Lowrance Elite 7 and HDS Gen1, Gen2 and Gen2Touch, Simrad NSS, NSE*and NSO*, and B&G Zeus Touch. The product offers up-to-date chart detail, including depth areas and contours, spot soundings, wrecks and obstructions, high resolution aerial photos of inlets, harbor entrances and land features, tide and current projects, route checking, anti-grounding technology and more. “MAX-N Wide is an evolutionary product that will continue to grow and offer boaters even more,” said Ken Cirillo, Jeppesen senior business development executive. “Jeppesen and Navico are continually working together to bring additional innovative features and important data to boaters. This makes an investment in MAX-N Wide cartography today the first step in an exciting future journey.”

SI-TEX has recently introduced its new Koden CVS-FX1 12.1-inch Color LCD Echo Sounder which provides a large 12.1-inch XGA color LCD display and 3-kW RMS output power. The CVS-FX1 is able to transmit on variable frequencies from 24-kHz to 240-kHz in 01.kHz steps which helps fishermen fine-tune fish finding performance for particular fishing situations. It also minimizes interference from nearby sounders. Advanced features include Condition Memory, enabling users to recall each setting by pushing the CM key.

Koden also has new digital echosounders for 2013, the new CVS-1410B and CVS-128B Broadband Sounders. Both have Koden’s broadband Flex-Frequency capability which gives fishermen the option of adjusting high- and low-frequency settings. The CVS-1410B has a 10.4” vertically-oriented TFT color LCD display and a 1-kW RMS sounder, and the CVS-128B has a high-definition 8.5” vertical TFT color LCD display and 1-kW RMS transmitter.

Both sounders also provide a wide range of presentation modes, including High/Low Frequency, A-Scope, Bottom Lock, Bottom Discrimination, Bottom Zoom and more. A variety of background palettes allow optimum view ability in all light conditions. The Koden Sona-Tone™ also tells operators when fish targets or schools of fish are detected by using different sounds.

The ECC-GLOBE® navigation system produced by Seattle’s Electronic Charts Company, Inc. (ECC) continues to be a popular product for commercial fishermen, with its seamless bathymetric maps and navigation charts. Also popular are the Automatic Identification System (AIS) and TerrainBuilder® add-on modules.

The AIS technology complements radar to increase safety at sea by helping identify not only which vessels are nearby but also where other vessels have been fishing. Having their call signs displayed on the monitor makes communication between vessels much easier and faster.

The TerrainBuilder® enables fishermen to build their own bottom maps which can be color-shaded by depth for easy identification of contours. The system allows easy import and export of data and is very user-friendly. The ECC 3-D module can be added to create 3-D maps. When used together, TerrainBuilder® updates the 3-D map in real-time using incoming sounder data.

“The AIS interface and the TerrainBuilder® technology have been in use for a few years and it’s still very reliable,” says President Jim Brantingham. He adds that Microsoft is moving towards eliminating some of the serial input ports and replacing them with USB-type connections since the standard marine interface (NMEA 0183) is starting to be phased out. “It’s a technical issue all electronics companies are working on.”

Radar Marine Electronics located in Bellingham sells, installs, repairs and services navigation and communications systems and is also a dealer for most marine electronics manufacturers. Owner Dan Hisey says enhanced computer processing and the latest software provide improved 3-D graphics to navigation, fish finding and bottom mapping.

“Digital processing of information is the latest big thing,” he says. “However, there are still two main ways to go with a navigation system on a vessel; an integrated marine navigation system like the Furuno Navnet or a PC-based navigation software. Oftentimes you’ll see both on a commercial fishing vessel. Most of these vessels will still have redundant systems like radars, sounders and radios. All those systems are typically redundant so if one fails, they have another to fall back on.” Hisey reports the most popular PC-based software manufacturers include Nobletec, Maxea by Furuno and Olex by Simrad.

Hisey says Radar Marine has also recently seen an increase in construction of new vessels. The company works with owners or skippers to design a full communication/navigation system for a vessel, depending on the type of fishing they plan to do. “Most of them will want two computers, three or four large screen monitors, dual radars, sounders, sonar and an autopilot,” he says. “They’ll also have one form or another of satellite/voice communication. Satellite communication has advanced a lot in the last three to five years, so there is more competition, more products and more options available for voice and data communication. We’re also starting to see more commercial fishermen put satellite TV entertainment systems on their boats.”

M-SAT is a popular satellite communications system for use by commercial fishermen in Alaska. “It offers them a one monthly price push-to-talk satellite system that works as if they’re talking on a radio to any boat or base station that’s on the network,” says Hisey. “Most of the canneries in Alaska have it at their facilities to communicate with the fishing fleet.”

Globalstar’s distribution manager, Rich Galasso, says this past February, the company completed its second generation satellite constellation, giving Globalstar even more depth in the duplex (two-way communications) market. “About 30 percent of our air time use worldwide is on salt water,” he says.

The new SPOT Global Phone launched at the end of May, and according to Galasso, is the least expensive and smallest satellite phone on the market. Off-the-grid (out of land line and cellular range) satellite service is becoming more popular and is getting more and more sophisticated. The SPOT Global Phone has the capability to be hooked up to a computer or laptop and send basic email or raw data at a speed of 9600bps, the fastest of any mobile device in the satellite phone industry.

“It’s not really ideal for heavy downloads or surfing the Net but there is no problems using it for basic communications,” says Galasso. “You could send pages and pages of basic emails and it only takes seconds or minutes to send. You can also do text messaging as well. Our phone can receive texts, and when you hook up to a computer or laptop, you can send text messages as well.”

Another new product launching this summer is the SPOT GEN3 messenger. Using the SPOT simplex (one-way) technology, it can send small packages of simplex data one way from any device to email, a cell phone, or to a profile page.

It allows the user to pre-determine message on their profile. The three basic default messages include “Okay check-in“, “Help” and “User-definable” that the user can create. Wherever the user is in the world, they can push one of these buttons and it will release that message to the designated recipients, and they not only receive the sender’s message but they also receive that person’s latitude and longitude, date and time and a Google Earth link showing exactly where they are. Unlimited messages can be sent continually for $99 a year.

Galasso says this device sometimes gets lumped in with the safety category like EPIRBS. “If you think of someone buying an EPRIB, they’re buying it with the hope of never having to use it, compared to SPOT which people use to communicate with family and friends,” he says. “We have a feature called ‘tracking’ which allows you to put the unit into tracking mode. For instance, every 10 minutes, it will update your position to your personal tracking page. This feature can also interface with your social networks such as Twitter, Facebook and Spot Adventures. It’s a great system and will save your life but the reality is by selling a communications product that can do that, it’s really opened up a whole different element to the customer.”

Galasso says one of Globalstar’s biggest challenges is convincing people that satellite phones aren’t as expensive as they might think. “Our phone sells for $499 and we have air time plans that range from $24.95 per month for our emergency plans to our unlimited plans for $149 per month, so we’re in line with cellular and land line prices,” he says. “It will save your life and will keep you in touch when you’re off the grid.”

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