As we have discussed previously, technology on board yachts is primarily intended to meet requirements linked to safety and comfort. These are among the main areas driving research, obviously joined by others such as reducing environmental impact. Safety and comfort are often tackled with specific products, and here on our pages dedicated to innovation on board yachts we will talk about two systems that differ significantly in terms of engineering and function. The first is a lighting and instrumentation system for guiding a helicopter in to land on a yacht, entirely implemented through LED technology and created with special adaptations so that it integrates perfectly into the deck of a luxury yacht from an aesthetic point of view. The second is a communication system based on 3G/4G technology with very high sensitivity and efficiency to ensure high-speed data exchange at distances from the coast that currently can only be handled by satellite solutions, or by the terrestrial network but with modest bandwidth results.
Being able to land a helicopter on the deck of a yacht is unquestionably an advantage for many aspects of a cruise, ranging from doing away with the need to go back to port or even just get within tender reach of the location of a work meeting, to being able to receive guests arriving on the yacht while it is at sea without needing to alter the yacht’s planned route. Management of helicopters on board yachts has always been the subject of numerous studies looking to combine as effectively as possible the convenience offered by these craft with the stringent safety standards that they must meet. Another aspect that deserves to be highlighted is the fact that the landing area can often not readily be used for other functions due to the presence of elements required for flight operations such as coupling systems, protruding lights, and so on. Thinking about these requirements and analysing all the aspects involved in both flight operation safety and the pleasure of being able to use the areas in question for other purposes as well, such as parties or open-air relaxation during the day, German company OPTONAVAL GMBH has developed a line of special HVLAS products. As mentioned above, the helicopter area must meet very specific standards to guarantee safe flight operations. In addition to meeting the standards effectively even at night, the set of systems offered by the German company makes it possible to use the landing area as though it was any other uncovered deck, with the capability to fit it out to taste without needing to bear in mind hazardous or even just inconvenient protruding elements. To achieve these results, the company has used LEDs for the entire lighting system for the stern and signalling, as well as to guide approaching pilots. It supplements this effective technology with mobile lighting elements equipped with multiple lights. This means that the stern lamps can be brought flush with the floor when not in use, but also that they can then be used instead to light the area for parties, transforming a flight deck into a large dance floor with plenty of suitable lighting. All of this is the result of a detailed engineering study to ensure first and foremost that flight safety requirements can be met. This was then developed to turn elements that usually disrupt the yacht’s aesthetics into elements of the fittings in their own right. In addition to the disappearing lighting elements with multiple individual lights to manage both flight operations and diverse needs involved in guest entertainment, the company also offers instruments based on the same technology and the same principle of avoiding detachment from the overall aesthetic. These are the Glide Path Indicator and the attitude indicator, part of an instrument that meets aeronautical standards while also remaining a discreet presence on board the yacht. Not only does a pilot approaching for landing benefit from this instrument’s functions, but so do the on-board staff who can monitor all flight operations constantly, even from the bridge. The system can rotate 360° and it features a day and night-time camera, as well as a tracing system for a designated target, which means it will no longer be necessary to manually follow the helicopter in order to be aware of its relative position and any manoeuvring needs. It is undoubtedly a new take on the on-board signalling system for helicopter management, one that is modern and reliable thanks to the redundancy built in with the LED lights, which are well integrated with the aesthetic and in fact form part of it since they can be used for ambient lighting and not just for signalling.
Having tackled a complex theme like managing aircraft on board yachts, a subject that is becoming increasingly fashionable given the keen interest of owners in these support aircraft, let’s now talk about connectivity. Telecommunications have undergone major development in recent years, in terms of both systems available on networks and the many systems that have entered common usage, often borrowed from the defence sector where research in this field is very advanced. Broadband connectivity is highly valued on board yachts, including during a cruise, and is provided by increasingly numerous, efficient satellites and on-board systems that are increasingly efficient in turn, even at latitudes that used to be unthinkable. Being able to rely on superfast connections when sailing near the coast is a need felt by the owner, guests and crew alike. Starting from the assumption that during a cruise a yacht will not normally ever go too far from the coast and that it often stays in the roads where a 3G and 4G signal is almost always available, German company Cellweaver has created a multichannel router system that allows access to the data network in a way that would otherwise be unthinkable. Inspired by a specific requirement for large yachts which needed to be able to rely on very high-capacity broadband to transmit large quantities of data, the engineers at the German company carefully assessed both satellite digital channels and the terrestrial network, carrying out a cost analysis and, most importantly, assessing the technical potential of each individual system. The result of this research was an assessment according to which when a yacht is in range of terrestrial radio relays, the 3G/4G network should be used – however, this applies where a system capable of working with up to 4 SIM cards simultaneously is available, which between them can guarantee a bandwidth of up to 600 Mbits/s. Having obtained this result from a cost-benefit analysis of each system, all that remained was to design a router capable of simultaneously managing 4 SIM cards, combining them to ensure broadband with high enough consistent capacity for video conferencing, streaming, fast transfer of very large files and everything else that may be useful when stationary or sailing along the coast, perhaps even maintaining contact with the owner’s office. Of course all of this makes sense only if a high-gain receiver system is available, i.e. one capable of maintaining contact with radio relays even when the yacht is a little further from the coast. The German engineers solved the problem by designing a highly sensitive antenna system and receiver, which can ensure all but continuous 4G service to the four SIM cards working in parallel. If the system experiences a deterioration in signal, it automatically moves to working in 3G without interruption, ensuring bandwidth that is more than adequate for any type of normal use. It is a very intelligent system, especially for anyone who normally sails along coasts where data packages can be acquired at reasonable prices. For example, now that roaming charges have been scrapped in Europe, it is easy to see that this system can be used to great advantage instead of the more costly, complex satellite system. In the Mediterranean, this system certainly has huge development potential, and the system itself is quite simple and does not require invasive installation work to be done on the yacht.