Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:


FarSounder, URI researcher develop first sonar for marine navigation, obstacle avoidance


Device can save industry $2 to $3 billion in annual damages from collisions

FarSounder, Inc. and a University of Rhode Island researcher have begun commercial production of the FS-3, the first 3-dimensional, forward-looking sonar designed as an aid to marine navigation.

With a range of 1,000 feet, a 90 degree field of view, and a refresh rate of just two seconds, the device will allow marine vessels to avoid collisions with submerged obstacles and potentially save the marine industry $2 to $3 billion per year in direct and indirect damage costs.

"We’ve been told that we’ve broken the laws of physics with this technology, but we haven’t. We’ve just opened the world up below the water line," said James Miller, a professor of ocean engineering at URI, where he began development of the technology along with former student Matthew Zimmerman, who is now FarSounder’s vice president of engineering. "This is a revolutionary leap for marine navigation, especially since most navigational charts in use today are more than 50 years old and many waterways are constantly changing."

The FS-3 is designed primarily for mid-size workboats (70-200 feet) like barges, tugs, offshore oil supply boats, research vessels, and ferries, but it is also of interest to large recreational vessels, the Navy and its contractors, and many others.

It provides high-resolution images of common hazards such as submerged shipping containers, whales, coral reefs, buoys, rocks and coastal ledge, and it is especially useful in navigating shallow waters or for nighttime navigation in unfamiliar harbors.

"There are 22,000 floating shipping containers in the oceans on any given day, and they are of great concern to ships’ captains around the world," said Cheryl Zimmerman, chief executive officer of FarSounder, which was listed by Rhode Island Monthly as one of the top ten small Rhode Island companies to watch in 2004. "Owners of petro-chemical barges, in particular, are concerned about any type of collision due to the environmental costs that might result from damage to their vessels."

Added Miller, "Just think of the cost of the Exxon Valdez disaster. If that captain could have had a map of the seafloor ahead of him, that disaster could have been avoided."

The FS-3 passed its final sea tests late in 2003 and was formally launched at the International Workboat Show in New Orleans in December, where it met with great endorsements from boat owners. Priced at between $55,000 and $65,000, the device is coupled with an electronic navigational chart system so users can not only see obstacles and the seafloor ahead of them but also easily see their geographic position.

"Our sonar delivers the three critical readings required for obstacle avoidance: range, bearing and depth. Two-dimensional sonars can only provide two of those three," Miller explained. "And the FS-3 generates a complete 3-D image on one ping every two or three seconds, unlike other systems that require several minutes and many pings to complete an image."

The sonar transmitter and listening devices are encased in a bow-mounted transducer that operates at frequencies well above the hearing range of whales, so marine mammals will not be impacted by its operation. Through "adaptive sonification," the system will soon automatically raise and lower sound levels depending on sea-states and the distance to objects.

The transducer is connected by a custom cable to a power module about the size of a briefcase. The user interface runs Sonasoft, a Windows XP-based graphical program that can be run on a laptop or marine computer. The user-friendly, 3-D volumetric navigational display provides vessel location on electronic charts, depth profile, color mapped depth scale, user-selectable depth and detection thresholds. It can also display GPS, vessel speed and heading data. The system can easily be set up so alarms will sound if obstacles or particular depths are encountered.

The technology used by the FS-3 has a wide range of potential uses and can be customized for individual needs. It can be adapted for Homeland Security uses like shoreland defense, in-water mine detection, terrorist swimmer detection, and defense of bridges and ports. It also could be used as an underwater security camera for dock-owners and waterfront property owners, among other uses.

FarSounder, Inc. is a Providence-based company established by Miller and Matthew Zimmerman in 2001 to bring to market the marine navigation technology they began developing at the University of Rhode Island with the assistance of the Naval Undersea Warfare Center. The company has built five generations of prototypes. The FS-3 is its first commercialized product.

FarSounder expects to grow from its current six employees to 20 by the end of 2005. For more information visit or call Cheryl Zimmerman at 401-784-6700.

For Further Information:
Cheryl Zimmerman 401-784-6700, or Todd McLeish 401-874-7892.

Todd McLeish | EurekAlert!
Further information:

More articles from Transportation and Logistics:

nachricht Study sets new distance record for medical drone transport
13.09.2017 | Johns Hopkins Medicine

nachricht Researchers 'count cars' -- literally -- to find a better way to control heavy traffic
10.08.2017 | Florida Atlantic University

All articles from Transportation and Logistics >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Locomotion control with photopigments

Researchers from Göttingen University discover additional function of opsins

Animal photoreceptors capture light with photopigments. Researchers from the University of Göttingen have now discovered that these photopigments fulfill an...

Im Focus: Surveying the Arctic: Tracking down carbon particles

Researchers embark on aerial campaign over Northeast Greenland

On 15 March, the AWI research aeroplane Polar 5 will depart for Greenland. Concentrating on the furthest northeast region of the island, an international team...

Im Focus: Unique Insights into the Antarctic Ice Shelf System

Data collected on ocean-ice interactions in the little-researched regions of the far south

The world’s second-largest ice shelf was the destination for a Polarstern expedition that ended in Punta Arenas, Chile on 14th March 2018. Oceanographers from...

Im Focus: ILA 2018: Laser alternative to hexavalent chromium coating

At the 2018 ILA Berlin Air Show from April 25–29, the Fraunhofer Institute for Laser Technology ILT is showcasing extreme high-speed Laser Material Deposition (EHLA): A video documents how for metal components that are highly loaded, EHLA has already proved itself as an alternative to hard chrome plating, which is now allowed only under special conditions.

When the EU restricted the use of hexavalent chromium compounds to special applications requiring authorization, the move prompted a rethink in the surface...

Im Focus: Radar for navigation support from autonomous flying drones

At the ILA Berlin, hall 4, booth 202, Fraunhofer FHR will present two radar sensors for navigation support of drones. The sensors are valuable components in the implementation of autonomous flying drones: they function as obstacle detectors to prevent collisions. Radar sensors also operate reliably in restricted visibility, e.g. in foggy or dusty conditions. Due to their ability to measure distances with high precision, the radar sensors can also be used as altimeters when other sources of information such as barometers or GPS are not available or cannot operate optimally.

Drones play an increasingly important role in the area of logistics and services. Well-known logistic companies place great hope in these compact, aerial...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>



Industry & Economy
Event News

Ultrafast Wireless and Chip Design at the DATE Conference in Dresden

16.03.2018 | Event News

International Tinnitus Conference of the Tinnitus Research Initiative in Regensburg

13.03.2018 | Event News

International Virtual Reality Conference “IEEE VR 2018” comes to Reutlingen, Germany

08.03.2018 | Event News

Latest News

Wandering greenhouse gas

16.03.2018 | Earth Sciences

'Frequency combs' ID chemicals within the mid-infrared spectral region

16.03.2018 | Physics and Astronomy

Biologists unravel another mystery of what makes DNA go 'loopy'

16.03.2018 | Life Sciences

Science & Research
Overview of more VideoLinks >>>