Sailing at night like in the day with all the pieces of information normally provided by a dozen of different on-board instruments displayed on a single screen . That’s what we experienced during a session of sea trials organized by Raymarine on Lake Como, Italy, to test the efficiency of two new products: the Axiom multifunction display, awarded as the most innovative marine product in USA, and the new Flir thermal camera.
Already at their official presentation at the Miami Boat Show last February, these products had drawn our attention and we had published a specific article to tell you their main features.
However, testing them at sea was a completely different experience that enabled us to go from a sincere interest to an enthusiastic desire to test them in all conditions: during the day and at night, finding wrecks and exploring sea bottoms, overlapping different functions in order to receive all the information useful to a safe sailing experience.
The Axiom multi-screen device and the Flir thermal camera are two completely different instruments; however, their ability to interact with each other deserves a unique mention in our report of the lake trials.
First of all, let’s see together which are their key elements. Let’s start from Axiom. As already mentioned above, it’s a touch screen multifunction display. What makes it really innovative is its extraordinary computing capacity which offers the possibility of being provided with a wide range of information simultaneously and in a very intuitive way.
The user can open different windows at the same time to be informed about maps, radar and sonar systems, Flir thermal cameras, navigation and engine data. Everything is displayed on a single extremely user-friendly screen.
As already said, Flir cameras – the M100, the M200 and the less recent but larger and more powerful M400 – interact with the multifunction display. More specifically, they define pictures through the heat emitted by items or people. Of course, they work with daylight, too, even though they show their best performances at night, when pictures on the display are the same than those which can be obtained in broad daylight. This is possible thanks to a 320 x 240 microbolometer resolution.
It is not difficult to image how useful such a camera can be at night in case of emergency, maybe in the event of a man overboard.
Our practical test enabled us to understand the real efficiency of the multifunction display, especially in terms of simultaneous reading of information. In short, we sailed while “reading” the chart and the radar screens simultaneously in order to have a graphic illustration of the map with real targets located by the radar. Meanwhile, we had activated the AIS function in order to read all the radar targets and the AIS views. This way, we managed to see not only obstacles but also the name, speed and direction of the other boats.
The visual definition of seabeds is excellent and displayed on the sonar screen. The device features lifelike imagery via exclusive real vision 3D pictures: chain sags, anchorage lines, wrecks placed on the seabed, fish and fishing grounds are all clearly shown.
The Flir M100 and M200 thermal cameras we tested on different boats during the day contributed to increase our monitoring capacity also thanks to the possibility to zoom up to 36X. Pictures are clear and sharp even in case of waves thanks to a gyroscopic stabilizer that always enabled us to read stable images.
However, what allowed us to appreciate the real strengths of these cameras, especially in terms of safety, was the test carried out at night. Night vision is deep and excellently clear. Regardless their different nature, all obstacles can be clearly identified. Of course, it cannot replace traditional night sailing systems, which envisage an adequate knowledge and respect of lights, but the device is a very efficient support which transmits a perfectly visible picture – which would otherwise risk to be covered with darkness – to the screen.