FLIR M-Series nav cam test, Raymarine integration appreciated!

Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher from 4/2005 until 8/2018, and now excited to have Ben Stein as very able publisher, webmaster, and editing colleague. Panbo is going to the next level in 2019 and beyond.

12 Responses

  1. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    One thing I’ll be asking Iris about in Lauderdale is their new Nightrunner camera’s ability to keep track of itself in rough conditions. This is not something most of us would think about — unless the camera started acting screwy — but I’m aware of the issue because of the FLIR M-Series has various settings for motor power and torque.
    The settings apparently involve the “trade-off between power consumption and the ability of the gimbal assembly to hold the camera in place in rough seas. If the gimbal moves due to shock or vibration, the camera may not be in line with the position indicator or may lose precision regarding the home position {or slew-to-cue}.”
    The prospect of a camera system like the one I’m testing at a remarkably small fraction of the price is really enticing, but will there be significant trade-offs?

  2. Reed Erskine says:

    Thanks for this well presented explanation of what is, for us humble rag-baggers, a mysterious gadget of dubious utility. For the last 10 years we have had an old pair of ITT F5000 “Night Vision” binocs tucked away in a locker (devilishly expensive in their day). We used them once in the anchorage at the North end of the Isle au Haut Thoroughfare on a dark and stormy night to ascertain the location of another boat anchored nearby. Since then it’s never been so dark, nor a strong spotlight unavailable to deal with night terrors, so really can’t quite see how useful Flir would be on our sailboat. This isn’t meant to detract from the evidence you present here for Flir’s impressive IR vision, but some gadgets, like AIS, are game changers, and some seem to fall into the bells and whistles category.

  3. Chuck B says:

    Interesting technology, and a great review! In the past a limitation has been the sensors ability to report its orientation, either relative to the hull, or in true heading. I looked at the latest specs on the FLIR web site and there wasn’t anything stated. Based on NMEA messages slew-to-cue is easy for AIS or MARPA targets, but is it also responding to cursor position or chart data directly? If so then that’s a major step forward for them!

  4. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Chuck, the camera definitely knows its orientation relative to the boat, which is why it can always overlay that camera angle indicator you can see on the lower left of every thermal image above. (Unfortunately, there are no overlays at all on the ‘visible’ camera image, probably because it doesn’t go through digital processing.)
    I don’t know exactly what conversation takes place between the Raymarine MFDs and the FLIR camera, but the task doesn’t seem too hard. I think that when you ‘slew’ to a point on the chart or radar screen — yes, the Ray integration with FLIR does that — the MFD simply tracks it like a go-to waypoint, constantly telling the camera of changes in distance and bearing relative to the bow.
    The slew info for MARPA and AIS targets would be the same except that the MFD is also tracking their motion relative to the chart. The Align Camera and Elev. Align commands you can see on the Camera Set Up menu above let you fine tune the cam so it and MFD are in close agreement about where, say, 50 degrees left and one mile out actually is relative to the bow. Inputting the correct height of the camera also helps. It all works slick.

  5. Taniwha says:

    Hi Ben,
    Really interesting, but am I right in saying that the M-618CS retails at about US$35,000?
    Boy, that’s an appreciable % of my total yacht’s cost.
    Interesting from a techie veiwpoint, but I can’t see it gaining traction in any segment below superyachts at that sort of pricing.
    Makes me wonder what “super low-cost” from Iris means: only $15,000?
    Oh to have limitless resources 🙂
    Paul.

  6. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Paul, the M-618CS is at the top of the M-Series line and it’s listed at West Marine at darn near $40,000: http://goo.gl/rV46cg
    At the ‘bottom’ of the M Series is the M-324XP with a lower res thermal cam and neither a daylight cam nor mechanical stabilization. It seems to have street price of about $7,600: http://goo.gl/RCBYcC
    But I don’t think that West Marine and/or The GPS Store do much business with superyachts. In fact, there’s an M-Series installed on an old but very well kept Grand Banks 32 here in Camden.
    I haven’t seen specifications for the Iris Nightrunner debuting in Lauderdale but at $4,500 MSRP for a “fully controllable thermal/daylight dual payload PTZ” that “connects via a single CAT5 cable” it does seem to “smash the thermal camera price barrier” as they claim. You can see what it looks like here: http://nightrunner-camera.com/
    Bear in mind that the least expensive way to get the benefits of a thermal nav cam is probably with fixed models like the newish FLIR MD models ( http://goo.gl/PMmqDj ) or their Raymarine equivalents. Then there’s no complex PTZ casing and no controller or MFD integration needed; you just point your boat at what you want to see.
    Plus it’s perfectly possible to apply all the MFD integration features discussed here to a much less expensive non-thermal daylight/lowlight PTZ cam. Actually, when Garmin demonstrated several nav cams tightly integrated with their MFDs in 2012, one was a lowlight. Panbo discussion here: http://goo.gl/ODaJIZ
    Finally, if you read the comments on that last link, you’ll learn that Iris Innovations was very likely the supplier of the cameras that Garmin eventually decided not to sell due to reliability issues. Or so Garmin said. That’s another subject I hope to discuss with Iris in Lauderdale 😉

  7. Bill Lentz says:

    Ben, I bought one of the early FLIR units. I forget the model number it’s thermal only, has a joystick controller and a X 2 zoom feature. I think it cost me a bit under $9,000.00 USD about 4 years ago. I love the unit it works well. Mine has a multi-conductor cable not a CAT5. The unit failed in the 1st 30 days, FLIR shipped me a replacement unit before I even sent them the defective unit. They were great about the advance replacement. I never had a problem with the unit after it was replaced. The problem was in the Imager not the joystick controller. I’m not sure I would want to boat at night without one now that I’ve owned one for a few years. On more than one occasion it allowed me to see unlighted small boats in total darkness way before there could have been a problem. It also works extremely well when transiting narrow creeks and rivers as well as seeing through back lit shorelines. In a MOB situation it would have great value, thankfully I have never had to use it for that purpose.
    Bill
    Wireless One
    Little Egg, NJ
    1993 Mainship 40SB

  8. Ben
    Have posted on our site a complete guide to FLIR / Raymarine fixed thermal and low light cameras.
    http://www.hudsonmarine.co.uk/resources/index.php/2013/11/raymarine-thermal-night-vision-camera-guide/

  9. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Just got a strong hint of more Garmin news. FLIR is sending around a “save the date” for their “first Integration Partner Cruise” at the Miami Boat Show and the listed partners are: Raymarine, GOST, Simrad, Furuno, Nobeltec and…GARMIN.
    I’m guessing that we’ll soon hear that Garmin network MFDs will be able to integrate with FLIR M-Series cameras as described in this entry. It’s pretty amazing how FLIR has managed to partner with so many major electronics companies even while it’s apparently helped Raymarine to thrive.

  10. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    FLIR just introduced an iPhone ‘sled’ mounted thermal camera:
    http://www1.flircs.com/flirone/
    It obviously can’t do what the nav cameras can, but could be useful around a boat. Plus the associated can apparently overlay thermal on standard video, which could be darn useful for navigation.

  11. Al McKeown says:

    I have a raymaine e140 wide and wand to connect my flir m324 to it do I have to change ip address in camera or is my raymarine unit going to look after that?

  12. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Al, first thing you want to check out is if your E140Wide had been updated to integrate with Flir M Series. I’m not sure but I think not. I believe your MFD can display Flir video output fine but that you’ll have to control the camera with a Flir joystick or a more current a, c, e, or gS Series Raymarine MFD.

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