Courtesy of SURVICE Engineering
Fields Cut along the ICW in South Carolina was one place that
an ARGUS test vessel found shoaling, as indicated by the yellow
and red sections.
to help fund new GPS devices for government agencies
at a cost of tens of millions of dollars. But if you just
bought a new GPS chart plotter for your boat, you
will be on your own. “We have not made an offer to
swap out all the devices in the known universe,” says
Terry Neal, LightSquared’s senior vice president of
Maybe I’ll be wrong again. Maybe LightSquared will
be history by the time you read this. Critics say Falcone
has a surplus of influence on Capitol Hill, purchased by
his generous contributions to Democratic causes, and
as this was being written, the LightSquared affair was
threatening to become another election-year hammer
with which to hit President Obama.
ARGUS RESULTS ARE IN
In other GPS news, PMM readers were among the
first to hear about an interesting initiative to establish
a system of “crowd-sourcing” our navigational charts.
As you may recall, SURVICE Engineering of Maryland
calls its experimental system, ARGUS, an acronym for
autonomous remote global underwater surveillance.
Survice partnered with two marine industry players,
Wave WiFi and EarthNC, during the beta phase
of ARGUS development, funded in part through a
$100,000 grant from NOAA.
The theory behind ARGUS is that a “black box”
would be installed on your average cruiser, sportfisher,
or cruising sailboat to automatically record chart plotter
output while under way. As the opportunity presents
itself, headquarters “harvests” the data via a wi-fi
connection for consolidation into a navigationally useful
format. These soundings, according to Project Leader
John Hersey, take into account “static and dynamic
factors,” including the state of the tide and the distance
of each vessel’s transducer from the surface and whether
the boat is traveling at displacement or planing speeds.
Over the past year, 30 test vessels gathered nearly 15
million soundings from up and down the East Coast.
Often these vessels (many of which were Sea Tow boats)
were transiting areas that have not been surveyed by the
government since the 1950s.
The news here is that SURVICE is now sharing
its test data for several high-traffic areas with the
boating public. Go to http://argus.survice.com and
you will see instructions for downloading the data and
applying it to NOAA charts using a free chart viewer
from a company called CARIS (a useful tool in and
of itself). If you find the CARIS viewer too technical,
the site also displays several of the test areas in Google
Because Google Maps and satellite are live and
interactive on the webpage, a boater concerned, say,
about the next day’s transit on the South Carolina
ICW, can just go to the South Carolina maps under the
“Shoaling Samples” tab and drag along the ICW to your
boat’s location. SURVICE warns that this data should
not be used for navigation—a standard disclaimer these
days—but I am going to suggest that all the ARGUS test
data be made available on a single Google Earth window
for ease of use.
The soundings data is represented on the chart or
Google as colored lines or dots with red representing
0 to 5 feet and yellow representing 5 to 10 feet, out to
greater depths in blue and purple.
The ActiveCaptain website is all about crowd-sourcing
cruising intelligence, and Navionics mobile charts offer
a similar feature that allows users to share information
about hazards and other navigational issues. The
ARGUS project differs in that it is the only system that
gathers data autonomously and with scientific controls,
rather than anecdotally. ARGUS will only come into
its own, however, when hundreds—even thousands—
of vessels are participating, and there is a sustainable
business model for sharing the data. Stay tuned.