Augmenting Navigational Aids: The Development of an Assistive Maritime Navigation Application

Ariana Mihoc, Kirsten Cater

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference Contribution (Conference Proceeding)

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On the bridge of a ship the officers are looking for visual aids to guide navigation in order to reconcile the outside world with the position communicated by the digital navigation system. Aids to navigation include: lighthouses, lightships, sector lights, beacons, buoys, and others. They are designed to help navigators calculate their position, their course or avoid dangers. In poor visibility and dense traffic areas it can be very difficult to identify these critical aids to guide navigation. The paper proposes the usage of Augmented Reality (AR) as a means to present digital information about these aids to support navigation. To date, nautical navigation related mobile AR applications have been limited to the leisure industry. If proved viable, this prototype can open the door to other similar applications that could help commercial officers with navigation. While adopting a user centred design approach, the team has developed the prototype based on insights from initial research carried on board of several ships. The prototype built on Nexus 9 tablet and Wikitude, features a head-up display of the navigational aids (lights) in the area, presented in AR and a bird’s eye view mode presented on a simplified map. The application employs the aids to navigation data managed by Hydrographic Offices and the tablet’s sensors: GPS, gyroscope, accelerometer, compass and camera. Sea trials on board of a Navy and a commercial ship revealed the end-users’ enthusiasm in using the application and further possibility of other data to be presented in AR. The application calculates the GPS position of the ship, the bearing and distance to the navigational aids; all within a high level of accuracy. However during testing several issues were highlighted which need to be resolved as the prototype is developed further. The prototype stretched the capabilities of Wikitude, loading over 500 objects during tests in a major port,this overloaded the display and required over 45 seconds to load the data. Therefore extra filters for the navigational aids are being considered in order to declutter the screen. At night, the camera is not powerful enough to distinguish all the lights in the area. Also magnetic interference with the bridge of the ship generated a continuous compass error of the AR display that varied between 5 and 12 degrees. The deviation of the compass was consistent over the whole testing durations so the team is now looking at the possibility of allowing users to manually calibrate the compass. It is expected that for the usage of AR in professional maritime contexts, further development of existing AR tools and hardware is needed in order to manage the increasing amount of data that is of use to the users to guide navigation. Alongside this designers will also need to implement a continued user-centred design approach in order to create better interfaces and display technologies in order to create enhanced solutions to aid navigation.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationWorld Academy of Science, Engineering and Technology, International Science Index, Computer and Information Engineering
Number of pages7
Publication statusPublished - 9 Jan 2017
EventICVAR 2017 : 19th International Conference on Virtual and Augmented Reality - Singapore, Singapore
Duration: 8 Jan 20179 Jan 2017
Conference number: 17SG01ICVAR


ConferenceICVAR 2017 : 19th International Conference on Virtual and Augmented Reality
Abbreviated titleICVAR 2017
Internet address


  • compass error, GPS, maritime navigation, mobile augmented reality


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