An electronic modernization for navigation

by Seaman Sabrina Elgammal

The Coast Guard’s needs are always changing. One of the latest changes is the need to integrate some of its electronic tools into a single interface.

“We are always trying to think of different ways to make life out to sea better for the crew,” said Senior Chief Petty Officer Jeffrey Zappen, officer in charge of the Coast Guard Cutter Pendant. “Modernization is constant in the fleet.”

Commissioned in 1963, the Pendant is a 65-foot harbor tug home ported in Boston, and is one of the oldest cutters in the fleet.

The Pendant has gone through many upgrades in its lifetime. One of the most recent upgrades is a navigational system called Vega.

The Coast Guard initiated the Vega project in June 2006 in order to provide its cutters with an integrated electronic navigation system. The architecture of Vega consists of a suite of applications designed to run in the Windows operating system, and is in developmentĀ  to comply with the Coast Guard commandant’s navigation standards.

Coast Guard Lt. Jeffrey Lynch, the lead software engineer, said Vega has become a fleet-wide electronic navigation solution and further satisfies Coast Guard navigation requirements.

“Vega is designed to be scaleable for use on a variety of Coast Guard ships and other vessels,” said Lynch. “The purpose of the system is to provide a primary navigation capability using electronic charts.”

This capability is achieved through a combination of an interface with electronic navigation sensors and the display of 3D layers of graphics.

Another feature Vega provides is the ability to sync with a device called the Automated Identification System. With AIS, users can view the name, course, speed, classification, call sign, and registration number of nearby vessels.

“You can view a lot more information accurately and quickly,” said Zappen. “You don’t have to keep switching back and forth between devices. With the Vega everything is on the same screen.”

“We still lay out our paper charts whenever we get underway,” said Seaman Casey Todd, a crewman of the watch aboard the Pendant. “They are really just here for backup in case we lose power, but as soon as we leave the pier our eyes are on Vega and the horizon.”

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