Taking the Furuno 15X8 series radar out for a spin; Furuno’s newest entry has found a welcome place on inland waters.
Furuno’s newest radar is now on the market. The first workboat installation of the company’s FAR-15X8 series was completed in late February and early March. Following installation, test runs were carried out on the Bruce M, a 65-foot, 1,900 Hp inland pushboat operated by SDS Lumber based out of Bingen, Wash. The vessel works the Columbia Snake River system, mainly pushing either construction or wood chip barges. The man at the helm when the initial test took place in Hood River, Ore. waters was Captain Gary Collins, SDS’ Marine Superintendent.
A Test Spin of New Features
SDS Lumber is not new to the Furuno line of products. The company was looking to upgrade its radar equipment on Bruce M, and purchased the FAR-15X8. “We immediately noticed the picture on it is a lot clearer,” says Capt. Collins. That’s due to a new feature called ACE (Automatic Clutter Elimination), an automatic rain and sea clutter suppression tool that gives what Furuno calls unprecedented clarity with a single dedicated key – the only workboat radar Furuno has developed with this feature.
Furuno’s Bill Haynes, Deep Sea Product Manager, explains, “We wanted to reduce the amount of time the operator has to play around with the radar to get a good picture. That’s one of the reasons for developing ACE. When you turn ACE on, the processor automatically looks for patterns of interference and eliminates them while maintaining excellent target and land mass clarity.”
SDS’ Captain Jim Taylor took the Bruce M on a run from Longview to Astoria in early March, pushing an empty barge on the passage down, returning to Astoria with a barge full of wood chips. The trip began in the late afternoon and lasted 15 hours. Capt. Taylor found the ACE function enabled the crew to easily see targets despite intermittent heavy rain, choppy seas and squalls. “This was my first chance to adjust everything and tune it up,” he says. “I turned ACE on and off to see how it functioned. It works really well.”
Another new feature of the FAR-15X8 series is the Target Analyzer function, which not only tracks targets but assigns each different colors, depending on whether the target is moving or stationary. It is particularly useful under heavy rain or snow conditions where surface reflection can cause interference and noise and it can also place hatching over heavy rain areas, allowing a clearer view of potential targets. SDS’ Collins was impressed with the feature. “When you have a target that’s moving at you, the target changes color. That shows you it’s a moving object and not just a buoy,” he says. “That’s going to be really helpful in high traffic.”
The new radar also offers Fast Target Tracking which can display the speed and course vector of any target in just a few seconds. “Normally when operators click on a target to acquire it and get information, it takes from 30 seconds to a minute to get good data,” says Haynes. “If a coastal vessel is amongst a lot of marine traffic and small boats without AIS on them, operators need to be able to tell the direction the boats are headed and they can immediately get a vector with FTT.”
Nuts & Bolts: Setting Up
The FAR-15X8 series comes in either a 12kW or 25kW configuration. The data displays can be customized to the user’s preference – up to four TT targets can be displayed as well as two AIS targets. The zoom function allows for enlarging incoming targets for increased situational awareness. The unit works on a scalable Ethernet Network System; the data link offers high-speed and stable navigational data sharing for interswitching as well as sharing data between ECDIS and GPS plotters
The 15X8 is available in a “black box” configuration but is also available with SOLAS compliant 19” LCD (Cat.2, 500-10,000GT) and 15” (Cat.3, <500GT) LCD monitors. The radar is tested to IEC62388 and IEC62288 standards, which meet requirements for IMO / SOLAS. Additionally, Furuno has improved overall unit operations by employing a touchpad on the standard control unit. For single hand operation, an optional track ball can be connected as well as a USB mouse.
Furuno suggests for best all-round situational awareness, two accessories can be combined with the FAR-15X8 series. The RD50 high contrast remote display unit can be attached to the top of the 15X8. The RD50 displays a wide variety of data from onboard sensors such as speed, heading, course, depth, wind direction and RPMs, as well as the rate of turn and rudder angles. The unit has an 8.4” color LCD which can display information in digital, analog and graph formats. Additionally, up to 10 displays can be connected with a daisy chain cable.
“You can create different screens of the data sets, but the rate of turn is really accurate,” says Haynes. Capt. Taylor found the rate of turn function extremely useful. “It’s more precise than the analog type and faster. The increments are smaller,” he says. “Each trip you go out on, you have a chance to learn a little more about what the unit can do.”
The GS100 Satellite Speed Log is unique and new to Furuno’s line up as well. The 5.7” color LCD unit can be attached to the bottom of the RD50, atop the 15X8. “It uses two GPSs and quickly performs a phase correlation for true heading information, not magnetic,” says Haynes. “You don’t need any gyroscopes. The unique thing is that it puts out three axis speed; fore/aft speed, transverse speed and stern speed. You can tell if you’re being pushed or if your tow is dragging in a different direction.” The transverse speed and stern speed allow navigators to quickly find out the behavior of the vessel in challenging conditions. In fact, according to Haynes, Furuno has found that even on cruise ships the product is installed on, the speed is accurate to within inches per second. The unit also delivers roll, pitch and angular information for navigation equipment such as Radar, ECDIS and AIS.
Added Value: Safety & Situational Awareness
For smaller, inland workboats, the equipment promises ease of operation, a compact installation on sometimes crowded wheelhouses, and better resolution in bad weather and choppy waters. Already in operation for SDS Lumber Company, the choice to upgrade to the Furuno FAR-15X8 series has so far been met with enthusiasm by boat crews, who readily appreciate the added safety that more and better features bring. Captain Taylor says the 15X8 radar will help improve vessel safety. “The picture is one of the best I’ve ever seen. I look forward to using it more,” he says. Furuno’s Haynes adds, “For situational awareness, I can see no better product suite to have in front of a professional mariner to run a vessel that pushes and tows barges. The 15X8 series is the best radar we’ve ever introduced in the history of the company. I’m that confident about the performance of it.” And, that’s a pretty good place to start for Furuno’s newest entry in the highly competitive Radar markets.
Kathy A. Smith is a Victoria, BC-based maritime writer who has penned over 100 published trade articles.
(As published in the April 2016 edition of Marine News