New ideas for recreational sailors

Yacht used in trials
Yacht used in technology test

Space applications can change the way commercial shipping is executed, but there are also opportunities for those who go to sea for the pure pleasure of sailing. EASY – the Easy And Safe Yachting project – demonstrated some useful ideas for better connections between yachts and a safer overall environment.

The EASY team identified that lack of skills and experience can make yachting trips much more dangerous, and can discourage people from trying out the sport. Their report shows how existing resources on ship, shore, and from space can help make everyone make the most out of recreational use of the sea.

The EASY system would bring together a range of services to offer everything the amateur sailor needs. These include tourist-related services about berth availability, local facilities – or any unusual dangers associated with particular marinas and harbours - and landmarks. A second range of services consist of online assistance and management by responding to emergency alarms, while the remaining services related to navigation support include route planning, manoeuvres and any dangerous conditions including changing weather.

Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) and satellite communications from the space sector are vital to the implementation of any such service at sea. The user terminals would be connected to the service centre using the best signal available, and so it would be able to flip between channels automatically without intervention by the crew of the yacht. These include narrowband (Inmarsat, Iridium, Orbcomm, GPRS, etc.) to broadband (mini-VSAT, UMTS/HSDPA, Wi-Max, etc.).

Helsinki harbour, a popular tourist destination

Although the system would be powerful, it would have a simple interface, and customers could select the services that would be of most relevance to them and their journey. In addition to the technical outline of the system, the EASY project team conducted market research and forward planning for the commercialisation of the system. They identified the Mediterranean and the Caribbean as the key recreational sailing areas where they could focus their attentions.

The results of the EASY Feasibility Study were presented at the 63rd International Astronautical Congress in Italy in October 2012. The partners indicated their intention to move the project to a demonstration phase.

The ESA programme ARTES (Advanced Research in Telecommunications Systems) has a range of elements including projects based on satellite communications and integrated applications to create products with specific end-users benefitting from space applications on Earth.

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