Fly by wire steering

Discussion in 'OnBoard Electronics & Controls' started by MaddMatt, Dec 8, 2020.

  1. MaddMatt
    Joined: Oct 2020
    Posts: 11
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    Location: buffalo ny

    MaddMatt Junior Member

    I'm still in the design phase (aren't we all? lol) but was curious if anyone has tried Electric power / Fly by wire steering in a boat vs hydraulic or push/pull cable?

    Dometic makes what appears to be the premier system called the optimus. Among the other features, it allows for motors to be steered separately if needed for slow speed control in tight areas. More importantly, no cables that need clean runs or hydraulic systems. Just a data and power cable connect the actuator to the control.

    I have found a few others for trolling motors as well.

    Just curious if anyone has tried and what their experiences were.

    Interesting article on the tech here:
    Electric Steering: The New Movement in Marine Innovation — Wave To Wave https://www.wavetowave.com/home/2020/2/28/electric-steering-the-new-movement-in-marine-innovation

    Matt
     
  2. fallguy
    Joined: Dec 2016
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    Location: usa

    fallguy Senior Member

    What engines?

    Optimus is not compatible with all engines that I am aware of..

    dbw is coming, now it is leading edge, but it is coming, cables and hoses all have a big downside vs a wire
     
  3. MaddMatt
    Joined: Oct 2020
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    Location: buffalo ny

    MaddMatt Junior Member

    I'm looking at 20hp Honda outboards.

    I like the idea of fly by wire but don't like the lack of competition. Hoping more companies come out with options bringing prices down

    Matt
     
  4. fallguy
    Joined: Dec 2016
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    fallguy Senior Member

    it is coming...I missed it and spent like 5k on hydraulic systems
     
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  5. Barry
    Joined: Mar 2002
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    Barry Senior Member

    Volvos system


    Mercs system Steering | Mercury Marine https://www.mercurymarine.com/en/ca/gauges-and-controls/steering/


    TECNAUTIC System Overview
    The best available Mono Cable System comprising Fly-By-Wire Steering, Cockpit Instruments, Autopilots, Main Engine and Thruster Control. Three years warranty.

    Fly-By-Wire Steering: a steering wheel that holds the heading
    The Fly-By-Wire Steering Wheel or the Joystick determines the rate of turn of the boat, not the rudder angle. With the wheel or Joystick centered, the heading is held. The artificial boat stability is a main aspect of Fly-By-Wire steering. The Sonic Heading Gyro is the heart of the system: a gyro compass which is produced by TECNAUTIC since 1992. The Autopilot positions the rudder and activates the thrusters as
    [​IMG]
    needed, so as to achieve the requested turn rate of the boat, determined by the electronic wheel or Joystick.
    Installation of a second helm becomes simple and inexpensive. Up to eight fixed or portable Fly-By-Wire steering wheels, throttle stations or Joysticks can be connected to the network at a fraction of the cost of a mechanical or hydraulic helm.
    The rudder will be driven by an Autopilot Drive or by Servo Valves. Almost any sort of Drive or Valves can be connected to the Autopilot Computer. Rudder motion will be smooth and accurate.




    Joystick: Forget complicated shift, throttle and
    [​IMG]
    steering wheel combinations in close-quarter maneuvering. Simply move the Joystick in the direction you want your boat to move.
    [​IMG]
     
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  6. fallguy
    Joined: Dec 2016
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    Location: usa

    fallguy Senior Member

    Most boats have some ability to operate when systems fail.

    I don't see a fallback mode here, if for example, a heading sensor fails.

    Am I missing something?
     
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  7. missinginaction
    Joined: Aug 2007
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    Location: New York

    missinginaction Senior Member

    Typically these systems default into standby mode if the control computer senses a problem. Garmin has gone so far as to offer what they call a "Shadow Drive" option for these autopilots. It's designed to automatically disengage the rudder when the system senses that you have moved the boats wheel. Once you resume a steady course the system automatically reengages.

    Time will tell, but I think that these systems will prove to be quite reliable.

    I've been using the now discontinued Garmin Tr-1 as my autopilot for 4 years now. Garmin has replaced the Tr-1 with the Reactor 40 Autopilot or, in my case, the Reactor 40 Kicker model.

    There isn't too much feedback on the new product yet but based on my experience with the TR-1 the Reactor 40 Kicker should be fine.

    My biggest knock on all of these systems is that I don't have the ability to shift from forward to neutral and reverse. I've got heading and throttle but every time I need to lock through or dock somewhere I have to disengage the autopilot and use the main engine. I still love these systems.

    Note to Maddmatt the Garmin Reactor Kicker is designed for outboards up to 20 horsepower.
     
  8. fallguy
    Joined: Dec 2016
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    fallguy Senior Member

    If you are driving by wire for heading with a joystick and the system loses power; would you have tiller control or any control over direction?
     
  9. missinginaction
    Joined: Aug 2007
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    Location: New York

    missinginaction Senior Member

    Interesting question. The autopilots that I'm familiar with work together with either hydraulic or mechanical steering systems, NOT in place of them. You still have manual control at the wheel. Up to now you press a button, put the autopilot into standby mode and drive the boat yourself. I have to look into these new systems in more depth but I wouldn't be comfortable with relying solely on the autopilot with no ability to hydraulically or mechanically steer the boat when necessary. Tesla's still have a steering wheel, right?

    The autopilot steers the boat, either as a heading hold device keeping you on a constant heading or the autopilot works with a compatible chart plotter. With the chart plotter you can layout a course and establish way points where the boat changes course . If you're in open water you can engage your autopilot on a preset course and not touch the wheel all day.

    The issue with heading hold autopilots (used without the chart plotter) is that while they do a good job of keeping you on the correct heading they do nothing to compensate for current or wind. You also have to "tune" them to your boat so that they perform properly in various water conditions. Garmin, for instance, has user adjustments for rudder gain, counter gain and what's called a "sea state filter". Let's say you want to turn from a heading of 90 degrees to 120 degrees. The autopilot will initiate the turn but depending on conditions when will the autopilot end the turn? When the turn starts to end is going to be different for different boats. Depending on tuning you can turn too quickly and not reach the new heading or go past 120 degrees, an overshoot. In those cases the autopilot "chases" the new track and you can end up oscillating. You're still going in the right general 120 degree heading but you're doing slow "S" turns along the track.

    There is also the issue of sea state. If I'm on a river and the water is smooth I can adjust the sea state filter for calm water. This will keep me on a dead straight track, almost like the boat is on a rail if current and wind is light. Another time I might be out in open water and fighting a 3 foot sea (maybe no big deal for some of you but I run a 26 foot boat). If I don't adjust my autopilot for the much rougher water the autopilot will try to keep me on the dead straight track and move the helm much faster and all over the place trying to hold it's heading. By adjusting for sea state I "turn the rudder down" so to speak. I allow the autopilot to adjust the helm more gently. I'll still hold my course, especially if I'm using a chart plotter but the autopilot will allow some deviation from the course line for the sake of a smoother ride. It is also much easier on the hydraulic pump that powers the steering cylinder. It doesn't have to work so hard.

    If you do any traveling on your boat, especially if you are alone or with a person who isn't interested in running the boat, IMO a good autopilot is essential. Awhile back I posted this.....

    Garmin TR1 Autopilot on a small cruiser - reviewed https://www.boatdesign.net/threads/garmin-tr1-autopilot-on-a-small-cruiser-reviewed.58235/

    MIA
     
    Last edited: Dec 15, 2020
  10. Ike
    Joined: Apr 2006
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    Location: Washington

    Ike Senior Member

    I am of the same opinion. If something fails (like losing all electrical power) how do you hen steer the boat? These things always seem to happen when they are most critical. For instance entering an inlet, or crossing a bar. There definitely needs to be a mechanical back up system.
     
  11. BMcF
    Joined: Mar 2007
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    Location: Maryland

    BMcF Senior Member

    I missed this thread earlier. We and others have been delivering fly-by-wire steering systems for more than 20 years, but almost exclusively for larger vessels, including megayachts. Except for some test craft, the smallest vessel we've delivered fly by wire steering to was a 57' compact yacht commissioned by a fellow that loved his tech gadgets. I figured it was only a matter of time before options were available for smaller vessels and craft and now we're starting to see them pop up. We have no intention of ever entering or competing in that space though.

    All of our systems are/were electro-hydraulic, with backup non-follow-up control feature that uses separate directional valves in the event of the failure of the primary servo. The backup valves can be manually actuated too.
     
  12. fallguy
    Joined: Dec 2016
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    fallguy Senior Member

    I would have loved fly by wire instead of spending 5k giv r take on hydraulics.

    If the control systems are embedded within a mfd; it seems odd the space didn't fill quickly with options for vessels like mine with twin 90hp obs
     
  13. gonzo
    Joined: Aug 2002
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    Location: Milwaukee, WI

    gonzo Senior Member

    VolvoPenta came out with a reliable system when the pods were released. It is the only way to have the options for self docking and the dynamic positioning system.
     

  14. BMcF
    Joined: Mar 2007
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    Location: Maryland

    BMcF Senior Member

    Hinkley was one of the first I'm aware of that introduced fly-by-wire steering controls to their small motor yachts that were propelled by Hamilton jets. That was back in the '90s.
    I've been working on a number of projects that are using Mercury propulsion and their all-digital control package, including the "Sky Hook" DP features. Pretty slick stuff..and I'm sure more will follow soon.
     
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