Apr 26, 2018

MAP SystemBy Owen Hurst

We are all looking to gain a little more time these days, and technology is often the route we pursue to find solution that will grant us more time for other things, even if that is just sunning on the bow or getting in the next chapter of that book you can’t put down. Marine autopilot systems offer the ability to program your route, relax and enjoy your journey. Now, lets be clear! I am not suggesting hitting go and heading below deck for a nap, you are still required to be aware and monitor your progress, but it can offer you the ability to take care of other tasks or simply relax without spending countless hours at the helm.

Traditionally we may thing that autopilot is for large ships, but over the last few years there has been an increase in the use of autopilot for personal yachts, sailboats and smaller vessels. For a good overview of how to properly size your vessel for an autopilot system see the detailed article written by Tim Burden found at West Marine.

Boat DiagramKeeping with our column theme we are going to look beyond the traditional autopilot systems to a newer development for personal vessels that allows you to control your autopilot via your smartphone. Now we should first note that most personal autopilot systems that have wireless capabilities come with a designated remote for wireless control such as products offered by Raymarine and Garmin.

But as we have seen smartphones are rapidly making inroads as a control unit for innumerable technological devices and marine autopilot systems have not been left out. On smaller vessels there was first controls for slower movements such as when fishing or remote controls for trolling motors. But now Al Marakeb’s MAP Marine Technologies has developed an autopilot system that is fully controlled via your smartphone. How much fun would it be to sit right at the bow of your boat and make course corrections and change speeds by simply opening an app. MAP has several technologies for making vessels autonomous, but the MAP Marine Autopilot is the only that allows complete control via its downloadable app. The system offers all necessary components to make your vessel controllable, including power supply connections, cables for relay and feedback to the steering pumps.

App Once all components are installed and the app has been downloaded you can plan your route by creating waypoints that draw the path for your journey. Once your route is set your vessel uses Global Satellite Navigation to follow the route from waypoint to waypoint. The app also has a feature that utilizes a slider for real time remote helm steering. A user can take over the automated course using the slider feature and by sliding right or left steer the boat to starboard or port.

This technology is truly revolutionary and presents a whole new avenue for personal boating, not to mention it would incredibly fun to steer your vessel from your smartphone without having to make a trip to the helm.

Boat However, that said I can’t help but point out and stress that safety must always be paramount on the water and such technology should be used with extreme caution and sound judgment. Although fun, any automated vehicle is subject to potential technical error, and further it seems prudent to point out that this type of technology should also be used during favourable weather. If the day is windy or rough and you have difficulty maintain a steady course any automated system is going to suffer the same issues. That said, I think this is a unique and interesting application that we will likely see more of in the years to come.

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Owen HurstAbout the author:

Owen Hurst was born and raised in Midland, Ontario on the shores of Georgian Bay. He has been boating and navigating ever since and has experience as a paddling instructor, rescue boat operator, and a passenger vessel operator for Parks Canada. He is also an avid fisherman. He obtained his Master’s degree from McMaster University and holds SVOP and MedA3 certificates from Transport Canada