RDrones may have been initially seen as another big boy’s toy, but it didn’t take long for them to prove their worth in a variety of fields. From a marine perspective, drones have plenty of potential, hence we are just starting to see saltwater-proof drones that can land and take off from the sea (soon to be featured in PBR). From a boater’s point of view, they offer the opportunity to scout ahead and take aerial photos, and the fisherman has the ability to see in detail where the big catches are hanging out.

Raymarine have taken this on board with their LightHouse 3.6 software update for their Axiom chartplotter series. Downloaded into any Axiom, the ‘Axiom UAV app’ enables you to fly the Mavic Pro drone via touch screen controls while seeing what it sees. The Mavic Pro, though not saltwater-proof, is one of the leading drones on the market, capable of recording in super-high-resolution 4K video. It can fly and hover in blustery conditions and has a top speed of 35 knots, while being capable of taking steady photos and video footage up to 26 knots – something not all drones can do. It should be pointed out that on a boat you will have to manually land the Mavic, so you will need a suitable landing pad to do this. I say this in particular because I once witnessed somebody using the grab technique, where they hovered the drone then grabbed it while someone else shut it down. The drone got confused and was having none of it, and things literally got messy (it was not a Mavic).

There are many great features courtesy of this UAV app specifically tailored for the boater:

‘Virtual Tuna Tower’ enables you to use the UAV as a virtual tuna tower – simply launch the Mavic Pro and use the UAV camera to scout for fish in the water ahead of the boat. When fitted with an optional polarised lens, the Mavic Pro’s 4K UHD camera system can see game fish, bait fish, weed lines, sandbars, reefs and more.

‘Capture the Action’ is literally that. Engage the ‘Fish-On-Feature’ [FB1] and the drone will instantly take off, start recording and then automatically fly the camera in an orbit around the boat while you land a prize-winning catch. On-screen controls let you fine-tune the UAV’s orbit, speed and camera angle.

‘Scout Ahead’ with ‘UAV Goto’ is a handy feature. With this you can fly to points of interest, waypoints or chart locations. Use the UAV Goto command on the Axiom to send the drone out on a mission. Using GPS, the Mavic will fly to the precise location you have selected and hover on station. While airborne, you can see the UAV on your navigation chart along with its course, speed, altitude and camera orientation – ideal for checking out a busy location in advance.

With any UAV you need to stay on top of things, which ‘Real-Time UAV Telemetry’ enables. In this case the app provides real-time telemetry and status for the drone while in-flight. Altitude, distance, speed, battery level, flight time remaining, signal levels and more are all clearly displayed on the Axiom screen.

Finally there is the ‘Automatic Return-to-Boat’ facility, which will bring the drone back to your vessel, then hover it at a programmable safe altitude and distance for the operator to land it.

The Axiom UAV app is a game-changing feature for a chartplotter, even by today’s high-tech standards, especially as it is free. Further details at: http://www.raymarine.com/multifunction-displays/lighthouse3/v3-6/

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