UC student helps design new prototype
05 June 2015
A UC master's student has created a new prototype designed to enhance technology that aims to improve maritime safety and prevent collisions at sea.
A UC master’s student has created a new prototype designed to enhance technology that aims to improve maritime safety and prevent collisions at sea.
Les Humphris (Electrical and Electronic Engineering) has developed an innovative new prototype for maritime collision avoidance applications, alongside industry experts at Vesper Marine while completing his master’s thesis at UC.
Humphris worked with Vesper Marine co-founder and chief engineer Carl Omundsen, a UC alumnus, UC’s Wireless Research Centre and Vesper Marine engineers to design a software defined radio (SDR) receiver that transforms the company’s Automatic Identification System (AIS) engine from an analogue to a digital platform.
The new system, which Omundsen plans to commercialise within the next 18 months, has a range of benefits including reduced cost, size and ease of manufacture.
“Traditionally you use a lot of hardware in radios so the objective of this project was to create a software driven radio platform with AIS radio functionalities defined in software rather than in hardware,” Humphris said.
“That means we can now update designs with just software rather than hardware which will make designs more cost effective. If you are changing designs in hardware you have to change the whole build but with software you can just install it.
“Software radio makes it a smaller bulid as well because it doesn’t have to have as many components so it’s a more compact device.”
Omundsen says the project was an excellent example of industry and the University working together to create a commercially viable solution.
“Les has done some great work. We worked closely with him and we saw it as a real collaborative approach between industry and academia,” he says.
“We definitely intend to use the results from Les's project. A new SDR platform will be like our existing AIS engine but on steroids. Our AIS engine is the core IP that our products are leveraged from, so a replacement that reduces current manufacturing costs while simultaneously opening the door to new products with more capability is a win-win for us.
“In terms of marine safety we are very focused on that. There’s a big uptake on AIS now as recreational boaters are recognising the safety benefits and the use of AIS on commercial vessels is being mandated around the world. We like to think that we are making a contribution to safety at sea with our products."
Humphris, who now works at Tait Communications on a six month postgraduate internship, says the project provided an incredible opportunity for real-world work experience.
“It was the perfect opportunity really. It gives me experience within the industry as I got to spend four months in Auckland working alongside Carl and the Vesper team, which was awesome. I am really excited that we managed to accomplish what Vesper Marine wanted to achieve at the outset.”
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