Furuno’s NavNet 3D multifunction display navigation system creates a new paradigm for the management and presentation of chart images, radar target acquisition and simultaneous dual-range operation, and in its innovative and very efficient user interface. The more familiar you are with chart plotters and radar, the more impressed you will be by NN3D.
NavNet 3D represents a large leap over the original NavNet system.
The NN3D system’s chart screen can encompass all of North America, displayed at a scale of 1-to-2,048 nautical miles. You will experience the sensation of plummeting through space as you smoothly zoom in on your harbor. Increasing levels of detail appear on the screen until you descend to the minimum, 1/8-nautical-mile scale. Pan across the chart without ever
Step aboard for a look at the future of navigation: integrated systems, chart plotters, digital radar and 3-D images. Read the other stories in this package: Electronics - 2008 Electronics – Roundup Electronics - Sources Electronics – Raymarine Electronics – Solar flares
encountering a chart boundary or annoying pause while the screen is redrawn. Shift your view to a detailed examination of a distant place you are considering visiting and return to your vessel’s position in an instant, with a single key click.
The viewing experience is similar to using Google Earth or an advanced game program, and is the result of clever software, a full on-board chart library, a fast processor and the high-speed graphics capability of the computer system. Furuno identifies this seamless image presentation system as TimeZero, a clever reference to the time you don’t have to wait for the screen to be redrawn as you explore the chart environment.
Although it may not be immediately apparent, the native chart image in the NavNet 3D system is in three dimensions, viewable from any desired elevation and azimuth angle. Click the “3D” key, and the chart on the screen shifts instantly, without resorting to a menu selection, to an overhead, vertical oblique, 2-D view.
The entire U.S. catalog of raster navigation charts (RNCs), vector electronic navigation charts (ENCs) and bathymetric charts are preloaded in the system’s internal memory. Satellite photo files that cover the chart areas of immediate navigation interest are uploaded to the internal memory as required. (The photo file storage for the entire United States would require more memory space than is practical.) The satellite photographs, with a resolution of 50 centimeters per pixel, may be precisely geo-referenced — or “fused” — with the chart image.
Dry-land areas are displayed at 100-percent opacity to show maximum detail. Shallow-water-area photos that contain useful information about the bottom are translucent, ensuring that all charted navigation information is visible. Photo areas of open water that contain no bottom details are made totally transparent, eliminating confusing images of vessels or other objects that could have been present when the satellite photo was made, and ensuring that photo information doesn’t obscure chart data. Bathymetric charts can be overlaid on the RNCs or ENCs, along with or separate from the satellite images.
The MapMedia RNCs and ENCs stored in the NN3D’s memory can be updated whenever desired on a future Furuno Web site, and charts for foreign waters will be available for purchase on the site. The system’s two plug-in SD cartridges are used to transfer data to and from the system, load preplanned routes, upload satellite images for the current portion of a wide-ranging voyage, or to store the navigation record of completed voyages. The SD cartridges in the integral display screen units are front-panel accessible; those for the black-box system are housed in the control module. This is a change from previous Furuno black-box systems, where the data cartridges were housed in the remotely mounted and often difficult-to-access remote computer module. (More on the integral and black box systems shortly.)
NN3D features Furuno’s first entirely new user interface since the introduction of the original NavNet system. This very welcome improvement in control system design reflects Furuno’s investment in MaxSea, whose engineers contributed to NN3D’s intuitive and easy-to-use control system.
The point-and-click concept will be immediately familiar to anyone who uses computers. A four-way scrolling cursor pad is used to pan across the chart. A click of the center-mounted “Ship” key returns you to a view centered on your boat. A long press on the key toggles the chart view between 3-D and 2-D. The scrolling pad also will control Axis IP cameras. A separate cursor control pad is used to place marks on the chart, to construct and modify routes, and to access context-sensitive information for the cursor-designated area. A center-mounted key switches the display from a single window to various multiple-window formats.
A “Display” key provides instant access to five customizable “hot page” data displays. A short press on the adjacent “RotoKey” displays a user-preselected list of control functions, while a long press presents the entire control menu for the current mode. Control commands always appear on the screen adjacent to the RotoKey knob, eliminating the need to look at varying locations on the screen, as was required when using soft keys. The “Range” key alters the chart/radar range smoothly, without the usual fixed-scale increment limitation. The functions of the four-way cursor pad and RotoKey also can be controlled from a USB mouse or trackball, a great convenience when operating in active sea conditions.
Waypoints, simply called “points” in the NN3D system, are created by clicking the “Points” key. Points can be moved and assembled into routes, and the routes edited with an ease that will make users of previous Furuno chart plotters and those using other types of equipment envious.
Radar that sees twice
Furuno’s NN3D radar systems use digital signal processing (DSP) to deliver what it refers to as Ultra High Definition (UHD) performance. (Furuno previously has used DSP in its sonar equipment.) The on-screen radar image validates the UHD claim; even very small radar cross-section targets are sharply defined. Tuning and adjustment functions are performed automatically. Alignment of the radar’s rhumb line with the vessel’s longitudinal axis is the only remaining manual adjustment, and that is accomplished at the control panel.
In a DSP-enabled radar the analog radar signals arriving at the antenna are amplified and then immediately digitized for processing in the DSP circuits. In a conventional analog radar the information presented on the screen is primarily determined by the strength of the received signal, with analog filter circuits used to minimize noise and interference. The DSP system analyzes the time-varying shape of the digitized signal to extract the maximum amount of information while rejecting noise. The signal processing algorithm created by Furuno for the DSP improves the system’s ability to separate adjacent targets, to suppress antenna sidelobe response, and to suppress noise. You don’t have to go to DSP school to appreciate the value of the system; just look at what is on the screen.
The NN3D UHD radar can see twice, operating simultaneously on two separate range settings, with automatic selection of optimum pulse length and pulse repetition rate for each range. (Previous dual-range radars typically operated at the pulse/repetition setting required for the longest of the selected ranges, significantly degrading the radar’s performance on the shorter range.) In dual-range mode the display screen is usually split vertically. Each screen has a full complement of control functions, including independent offset range, gain, sea-state, target trails, variable electronic range and bearing markers. AIS and ARPA (automatic radar plotting aid) tracked targets are shown on both screens.
From the user’s standpoint the vessel has two separate radar sets. The rotation speed of the scanner adapts to the range in use. For example, 48 rpm is used when operating on shorter ranges, 36 and 24 rpm for longer-range settings.
The UHD radars are equipped with 30-target ARPA capability, triple the number of targets that could be tracked with earlier equipment. Up to 100 AIS targets can be tracked when the optional FA/30/50 AIS receiver is part of the system. Up to 30 targets, AIS or ARPA, can be displayed at one time.
Unlike previous Furuno radars that performed a large part of the processing of radar information in the chart plotter or remotely mounted black-box unit, all of the UHD radar circuitry is housed in the antenna assembly. The large-diameter, multiconductor cable previously used to connect the scanner to the remainder of the system is replaced by a pair of small-diameter 48 VDC power wires and an Ethernet cable. (Installers can be heard cheering!) The antenna units also provide two NMEA 2000 connectors. GPS receivers and weather sensor systems plugged into the antenna are automatically connected to the system bus, eliminating the need to install additional cables (more cheering!).
NN3D radar options include two radome units: 18-inch diameter, 2-kW, 24-nautical-mile range; and 24-inch, 4-kW, 326-nautical-mile range. Open array sets are available with antennas from 3.5 to 6 feet in length, power ratings from 4 to 25 kW, and maximum ranges from 48 to 96 nautical miles.
Black box or integral
The NavNet 3D system is available with integral display screens or in black-box form using separate displays. The MFD8 uses an 8.4-inch color TFT VGA LCD (640 by 480 pixels), the MFD12 a 12.1 inch SVGA screen (800 by 640 pixels). Color capability is 262,144 colors for the chart plotter, 64 for the fishfinder, and 16 for radar information. Memory capacity for both integral display units is identical: up to 12,000 points for ship’s track and marks, 2,000 user-defined points, and up to 200 routes with up to 100 points per route. (The days are past when memory size limited navigation flexibility.)
A standard USB keyboard can be plugged into the system to facilitate entry of alphanumeric data used to identify points or routes. Data display can include navigation instruments, engine and vessel monitoring data, and information from the new array of NN3D FI-50 instruments. The system is compatible with both NMEA 0183 and NMEA 2000 data buses.
The MFD-BB black-box version of the system can use a range of Furuno or generic display screens up to SXGA 1,280-by-1,024-pixel format. Up to 10 screens can be connected to the MFD-BB system. Operation in “Extended Mode” displays system data across two screens, making it possible to view up to eight windows simultaneously.
NN3D sonar/fishfinder capability is obtained by connecting either the DFF1 or ETR-30N-BBF3 sonar units to the Ethernet port on the display unit or on the black-box system’s central processor unit.
Weather information can be obtained from three sources: the BBWX1 Sirius satellite receiver, FAX-30 WeatherFax receiver, or WS200 NMEA 2000 output Weather Station. GPS/WAAS information is supplied from the GP-320B 12-channel receiver. Video can be accepted from standard cameras or from IP cameras. The system’s front panel controls can be used to manage the pan and tilt motions of Axis IP cameras — four with the black-box system, two with the integral-screen systems. An associated MaxSea chart program provides PC software that can be used to plan voyages and capture trip record information for archival use.
Prices for low, midlevel and high-end NavNet 3D setups are $5,945 for a 8.4-inch MFD with GPS/WAAS chart plotter preloaded with official NOAA raster/vector charts and a 2.2-kW 18-inch radar dome; $9,445 for a 12.1-inch MFD with GPS/WAAS chart plotter preloaded with official NOAA raster/vector charts and a 4-kW, 3.5-foot open array radar; and $16,520 for the black box MFD with GPS/WAAS chart plotter preloaded with official NOAA raster/ vector charts and a 12-kW, 6-foot open array. Optional sounders range from $800 to $2,295; AIS receiver is $900; WxFax/Navtex receiver for NavNet and PC is $995, as is the Sirius Satellite Weather receiver.
The magnitude of change Furuno has created in the NavNet 3D system cannot be adequately described here. A visit to www.navnet.com will provide an excellent initial briefing that will whet your appetite for an on-water test of this user-friendly, maximally capable multifunction navigation system. Those with previous NavNet experience, which was about as user-friendly as a 1990 VCR, will be particularly impressed.