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Old 07-03-2019, 15:31   #1
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Forward scan sonar revolution is coming

Forward-scan sonar has been around for a couple of years. I'll admit that I was dismissive of the technology at first.


YouTube videos of cruisers actually using it to navigate shallow water are finally starting to show up, e.g.:






It seems to me that this has the potential to open up previously unusable areas in much the same way GPS did. It makes it possible to pick your way through waters where you can't see (either because the water isn't clear enough or because it's night or the sun is at the wrong angle), and to get much closer to the bottom than most people would any other way.


And provides a backup in case the mark-1 eyeball misses something.



Also allows shorthanded boats to go into areas where it would otherwise be necessary to have a bow lookout or a scout ahead in a dinghy.


There are limitations. Posters here have said you have to go slow, about 1 knot, because the range is short. But still. Watch the videos if you're not convinced..
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Old 07-03-2019, 15:41   #2
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Re: Forward scan sonar revolution is coming

Echopilot has been shipping FLS for recreational vessels from before Youtube existed.
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Old 07-03-2019, 16:23   #3
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Re: Forward scan sonar revolution is coming

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Echopilot has been shipping FLS for recreational vessels from before Youtube existed.

Interphase Probe has been around for 20 years or so too.
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Old 07-03-2019, 16:38   #4
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Re: Forward scan sonar revolution is coming

We've had an Interphase for a while and you are correct, the major limitation is shallow water and not seeing too far ahead. Its an electronic aid and still good to have eye ball nav up as the primary.

Was a real bummer when Garmin purchased Interphase, then squashed the product line.


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Old 07-03-2019, 16:41   #5
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Re: Forward scan sonar revolution is coming

How many have tried the new Garmin forward looking models (Panoptix?) I assume it's based, at least in part, on Interphase and the images look very good.
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Old 07-03-2019, 16:42   #6
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Re: Forward scan sonar revolution is coming

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Interphase Probe has been around for 20 years or so too.
Actually, the Interphase family of FLS aare pretty old. We installed one in 1996
on our previous boat and became so used to having its data that we bought one for our current boat before even having her surveyed!

Unfortunately, when Garmin (the dragon company) bought out Interphase they axed the FLS products and there is not a replacement IMO. The Echo Pilot gear is similar, but never had the range of the Probe.

The new gear has fancy graphics but is limited in range and damn expensive. None the less, I will be watching its evolution with hope!

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Old 07-03-2019, 16:44   #7
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Re: Forward scan sonar revolution is coming

I have to say, I have been unimpressed. I never have trouble with water going from 20 feet to 6.5. I need a magic box to tell me when it goes from 7 to 6.5. And my boat canít maneuver at 1 knot. I move at 2.5 at idle.

I have been cruising for years in the Bahamas with a boat that draws 6.5 feet and never once have I been in a situation where a forward scanning sonar as they exist today would have been helpful.

Have I run aground? Of course! But in every case I was creeping along in water JUST deep enough to float until it wasnít. Back, try again.

In rocky waters like northern New England I might sing a different tune.
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Old 07-03-2019, 17:06   #8
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Re: Forward scan sonar revolution is coming

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I have to say, I have been unimpressed. I never have trouble with water going from 20 feet to 6.5. I need a magic box to tell me when it goes from 7 to 6.5. And my boat canít maneuver at 1 knot. I move at 2.5 at idle.

I have been cruising for years in the Bahamas with a boat that draws 6.5 feet and never once have I been in a situation where a forward scanning sonar as they exist today would have been helpful.

Have I run aground? Of course! But in every case I was creeping along in water JUST deep enough to float until it wasnít. Back, try again.

In rocky waters like northern New England I might sing a different tune.
We've used an Echopilot for the last 4 or 5 years and find it very helpful in unknown anchorages. In shallow water it shows clearly the gently shallowing ahead of sandbanks a boat length+ ahead. In a little deeper water it shows further ahead. If you can't motor slow enough to use the FLS then I can't see how you could use water color to distingush depths of a half foot. Hitting sandbanks at 2.5 kts doesn't sound productive.
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Old 07-03-2019, 18:17   #9
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Re: Forward scan sonar revolution is coming

Like “HUD” (heads up display), forward looking sonar technology has been used by the military for a long time. The A4m Skyhawks I worked on during the 1970’s had HUD and Flir technology back then. I am quite certain that the Navy has been sitting on forward looking sonar technology for even longer. It has just been a matter of time before the civilian world got their version of that technology. Now integration onto recreational boats is starting to happen. As we have seen HUD technology is now in automobiles. I think that it could be a very useful tool on boats, especially for gunkholing.

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Old 08-03-2019, 01:41   #10
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Re: Forward scan sonar revolution is coming

I have fitted a B&G forward scan, same transducer and UI like the picture above, it works, but does not replace eye ball navigation.

Do not expect too much, it is just another source of information and may warn you before a collision, but not sufficient to maneuver around. The range is appoximately 4 to 1, means on 10ft depth you see 40ft ahead.
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Old 08-03-2019, 03:00   #11
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Re: Forward scan sonar revolution is coming

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If you can't motor slow enough to use the FLS then I can't see how you could use water color to distingush depths of a half foot.
How slow have you got to go before the Echopilot gives a realistic or say reliable picture of what is ahead?

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Old 08-03-2019, 04:48   #12
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Re: Forward scan sonar revolution is coming

I have the above mentioned Forward Scan on my B&G system.

It may be useful somewhere but it is beyond useless sailing up on the Great Lakes. In particular, sailing up around Isle Royale where the water tends to shelf up fairly suddenly. It does not pick up the bottom until you are fairly shallow and then only after a little while so generally I am on or nearly past the shallow part before it begins to display anything and even when it is up and tracking, it's pretty flickery and crazy. It CAN give you useful data but only if you are staring exclusively at it which of course only an idiot would do.

Oddly enough when I have an EXTRA crew person, I'll generally try to employ the forward scan picking my way into tight spots but never when I am short. I need eyes up looking around the real world.

TO be fair to the system, it might work better if I twiddled with the settings a bit but thus far, it has not seemed to be worth the effort to do so.
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Old 08-03-2019, 05:43   #13
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Re: Forward scan sonar revolution is coming

While on occasion we have used our Interphase to "see" a relatively deeper channel cutting through shoals in murky water, it isn't my favorite use for the forward scan. Unless you are in deeper water, we wouldn't really only rely on the Interphase to pick our way through rocks or coral.
The most consistent use is to detect shoals when attempting to find an anchorage or heading up a river. Again doesn't give you much time to react, but has saved our bacon a few times in shifting areas.
Since our Interphase is getting long in the tooth, had high hopes when they announced a Simrad/B&G forward scan a few years back. We were not impressed and the hype seemed much more than it could do.
One would think with all the new digital technology it would not be so hard to create a good FS. If someone does make a good FS, would like to see another feature added and that would be a good side scan. It would be nice to detect openings in the reef as one runs parallel, instead of turning the boat to get a better look.


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Old 08-03-2019, 09:03   #14
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Re: Forward scan sonar revolution is coming

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I have been cruising for years in the Bahamas with a boat that draws 6.5 feet and never once have I been in a situation where a forward scanning sonar as they exist today would have been helpful.
How about to cross the Yellow bank at night or stormy conditions?
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Old 08-03-2019, 09:05   #15
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Re: Forward scan sonar revolution is coming

The revolution I'm waiting for is a FLS to detect containers or whales ahead. Any hope for this in the foreseeable future?
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