Join Date: Mar 2012
Location: Vancouver, BC
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Re: Remote helm
It all depends on the $$. The control system we install for this type of stuff is a specialized one, the company makes nothing else and it is installed OEM as the control system for several brands(Castoldi, Azimuth, Princess, Marlow etc) now. The company who developed it does nothing else, and at every step it is designed to relinquish control in case of a failure, after stepping down to what is left first(EG if thruster malfunctions it fails to engine only and adapts). All components are hardened, no electrical connection exists between Boat and Control, they are totally isolated, a sudden power surge or even a dead short of AC into the system won't cause it to go haywire, the physical separation on the boards prevents it.
If it all fails, it kills the power to the whole system.
I was a lot more worried by it before I got into the guts of it properly. IMO now, this system at least is more robust than many of the direct cable and hydraulic systems, a customer with the latter recently lost control due to a fluid leak.
There are some similar systems on the market, but most are locked down so tight you cant see what's going on inside them, though I got to see many of them on test benches in pieces, the programming is all proprietary and locked down, and the hardware often has significant weak points. Included in that are ones like Bosch Rexroth, Skyhook/Zeus and similar.
We can actually interface with those, and others like Glendining and ZF anyways, however they all seem to have significant weaknesses.
When we do a ground up installation of it is very robust, the linear actuators on the engine and transmission are simple, tough and high quality. If they fail, almost any standard actuator can be substituted to get home, the same type can be used for everything from autopilot to engines.
Or a Teleflex actuator system can be used which is a cable connected to an actuator with manual overrides right on it, pull the lever and you have direct gears connected to the cable instead.
So it's totally doable, and can be very robust, and long term economical, but it requires time and money to do it right the first time.