While experience remains the best teacher, even the saltiest of captains find docking to be stress-inducing from time to time. Joysticks have made heroes out of a lot of us and become a must-have option: All the major engine manufacturers now offer one as part of a package to control multiple engines for close-quarters maneuvers. “Everyone has wanted to make docking easier forever,” Prestige Director of Marketing Eric Stromberg tells me. “It’s kind of the holy grail.”

Raymarine’s DockSense assisted docking aims to do just that. The system adds what Raymarine calls a “virtual bumper” (I would’ve named it a virtual fender), a simulated geofence around the boat that senses objects—pilings, boats, floating debris—within its range. It adds semi-autonomous commands that will take the reins should a collision be imminent.

DockSense builds a model of all the objects around the boat, which it shares with the boat’s operating system to make fast decisions about which objects are getting too close, in order to maintain a specified ‘virtual bumper’ radius.

DockSense builds a model of all the objects around the boat, which it shares with the boat’s operating system to make fast decisions about which objects are getting too close, in order to maintain a specified ‘virtual bumper’ radius.

The myriad systems work in concert with existing joystick controls and fly-by-wire steering all tied to the DockSense processor, integrated with five FLIR Systems machine-vision optics placed around the vessel. FLIR’s patented marine-grade cameras are also optimized for three-dimensional motion sensing under all types of lighting conditions.

Exact position data is taken many times per second via an attitude heading reference system (a nine-axis, gyroscope-type sensor) and then combined with GPS to help minimize the forces of wind and current.

The DockSense app runs on Raymarine’s Axiom display, showing the helmsmen five camera angles plus an augmented reality overhead shot giving the boat’s exact position. A dotted line illustrates the virtual bumper, generally set at 3 feet. One other helpful feature in docking mode: When the helmsman lets go of the joystick, a type of dynamic positioning system kicks in, holding the vessel in position. 

See the video here:

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