by Des Ryan
The new and innovative Virtual AIS Beacon is our product of the week. While not a product for direct use by the leisure sailor, it addresses the need to make hazards at sea visible when costly physical infrastructure is not appropriate or is impossible to deploy. It has won this year's 2012 IHS Safety Award in the Equipment category.
Virtual AIS Beacon
The new product will be an aid to Port Authorities, Port Companies and organizations with Oil & Gas, Offshore Fishing, Aquaculture or Marina operations, as well as aiding all sea craft with more extensive hazard warnings.
When a Virtual AIS Beacon is deployed and marking hazards such as a reef or other obstacles, a yacht's existing onboard AIS is able to alert crew that they are on a collision course with the hazard well before they come in contact with it.
Other uses of the Virtual AIS Beacon include;
* Marking shipping channels, used to 'join the dots' between physical buoys to improve shipping lane visibility
* Marking areas where navigation conditions change frequently, including; overhead clearance, ice, water levels, etc
* Marking both visible and invisible hazards, including; bridges, marina/piers, reefs or shellfish beds
* Marking moving hazards such as sand bars to regularly provide changes in location and provide alert warnings
And can even be used to 'throw up' temporary cordons around events such as boat race and swim courses or other no-go areas such as hazardous spills, marine protected areas, etc
One of many examples of where the Virtual AIS Beacon can be used is to mark a shipping channel (image above). This might be needed to augment existing physical buoys or to implement a temporary route.