Virtual aids to navigation

R. Glenn Wright, World Maritime University


There are many examples of master, bridge crew and pilot errors in navigation causing grounding under adverse circumstances that were known and published in official notices and records. Also dangerous are hazards to navigation resulting from dynamic changes within the marine environment, inadequate surveys and charts. This research attempts to reduce grounding and allision incidents and increase safety of navigation by expanding mariner situational awareness at and below the waterline using new technology and developing methods for the creation, implementation and display of Virtual Aids to Navigation (AtoN) and related navigation information. This approach has widespread significance beyond commonly encountered navigation situations. Increased vessel navigation activity in the Arctic and sub-Arctic regions engenders risk due, in part, to the inability to place navigational aids and buoys in constantly changing ice conditions. Similar conditions exist in tropical regions where sinker placement to moor buoys in sensitive environmental areas with coral reefs is problematic. Underdeveloped regions also lack assets and infrastructure needed to provide adequate navigation services, and infrastructure can also rapidly perish in developed regions during times of war and natural disaster. This research exploits rapidly developing advances in environmental sensing technology, evolving capabilities and improved methods for reporting real time environmental data that can substantially expand electronic navigation aid availability and improve knowledge of undersea terrain and imminent hazards to navigation that may adversely affect ship operations. This is most needed in areas where physical aids to navigation are scarce or non-existent as well as in areas where vessel traffic is congested. Research to expand related vessel capabilities is accomplished to overcome limitations in existing and planned electronic aids, expanding global capabilities and resources at relatively low-cost. New methods for sensor fusion are also explored to


reduce overall complexity and improve integration with other navigation systems with the goal of simplifying navigation tasks. An additional goal is to supplement training program content by expanding technical resources and capabilities within the confines of existing International Convention on Standards for Training, Certification and Watchkeeping for Seafarers (STCW) requirements, while improving safety by providing new techniques to enhance situational awareness.