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Old 02-14-2015, 04:49 PM
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I just wanted to add some info to this thread.

In a nutshell, "Panoptix" is a consumer version of an existing technology known as "multibeam sonar." Multibeam sonar has been used for a couple decades on commercial survey vessels. The big benefit is that instead of only seeing the bottom directly beneath the boat, multibeam can measure the depth of a wide swath of the seafloor on every pass.

This might sound really similar to side-scan sonar. And it is! But with one crucial difference. Side-scan can display the location of structure, but it CAN NOT measure depth anywhere except directly under the boat.

Multibeam can measure depth anywhere it within its horizontal range. It can take MILLIONS of depth measurements per pass. This cloud of individual soundings scattered across the seafloor allows you to do some really cool stuff. Here are some multibeam renderings from my commercial sonar charting projects near Destin/Pensacola. (Kongsberg multibeam sonar)



Shrimp Boat

Chicken Coops


Now for comparison, side-scan and multibeam of the same area.



So to sum this up, multibeam is like side scan in three dimensions. Garmin's capability doesn't look like it will approach that of professional multibeam survey systems, but is is certainly a very exciting step in the right direction. The cheapest professional multibeam sonar costs tens of thousands of dollars, and the nicest costs close to a million.

A couple professional thoughts about this tech on fishing boats:

1. I am not convinced that multibeam sonar will be incredibly useful while you are actively fishing. A real-time 3-D rendering of the bottom will have some "Gee-Whiz" factor to be sure, but I seriously doubt that the miniaturized first generation transducer will have the power and resolution to dependably identify fish and bait in the water column. I may be wrong however. I will have to get my hands on one of these machines for a few days before I pass judgement.

2. This could be a HUGE LEAP FORWARD for amateur bottom mappers and side-scan gurus. I make my living processing multibeam and making detailed bottom maps. Trust me. Multibeam is unequivocally 'the s***."

If you're the kind of guy who likes to bring sonar data home to analyze it on your computer, you should keep a close eye on what Garmin is doing here. This technology is giving you a taste of what the big dogs use for a couple orders of magnitude less in price.

3. It is absolutely critical that Garmin share the format of it's multibeam data recordings with 3rd party mapping software companies like Reefmaster and SonarTRX. Opening up the raw data format to amateur mappers could push Garmin to the front of the pack for all prosumer users. Scientists. Search and Rescue. Amateur mappers. Treasure hunters.

So far, Garmin has taken another course. They have refused to release details of their side-vu recording format, forcing 3rd party devleopers to reverse engineer the sonar recordings. At the same time, Garmin has said they have no current or future plans to offer advanced mapping software of their own.

I truly hope they see the light and reverse course on this soon. Because if the data is trapped inside the GPS box, then Garmin's game-changing tech advance just became a "gee-whiz" gimmick to many of the folks who are excited to use it.
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