Laser Wind Speed - An alternative to Doppler Radar

An increasing number of large Dynamically Positioned vessels have Doppler Weather Radars onboard to estimate the wind speed of approaching fronts but with the units costing $200,000+ many companies are holding out for an alternative. With Racer’s Edge’s Laser Wind Sensor costing approx. $150,000, this might not be the solution they are looking for but the idea is interesting…

Are you able to estimate wind direction and speed from small waves in the water, the movement of clouds, or visual cues from other boats 300, 500, or even 700 meters away? It is a good skill for a sailor to have, but very tough to learn. The Racer’s Edge, pictured above, is a high tech wind measurement device capable of measuring wind speed and direction at considerable distances, enabling a sailboat crew to optimize course and sail trim for maximum speed.
This product was unveiled as one of team BMW Oracle’s competitive advantages for the 33rd America’s cup race. In addition to this small compact model intended for use on the sailboat during a race, a larger model was used on a power boat tasked with performance measurement during the sea trials and calibration of USA17, the winner of the 33rd America’s Cup on February 14th.

Much like the reflection of a transmitted radar pulse is measured to detect distant objects; the Racer’s Edge measures the reflected energy of laser pulses with a highly sensitive receiver. The product is tuned to measure energy reflected off moisture and dust particles riding along with the wind. Each time the user aims and shoots the device, much like a camera, the reflected energy is measured for phase shift and timing to determine wind direction and speed from multiple distances near simultaneously.

This state of the art measurement capability is smartly integrated with five other technologies including inclinometers that assist the user in keeping the product level with the horizon, a GPS to measure the motion of the boat underneath the user, a solid state compass to measure where the laser is pointed relative to the direction of boats motion, elaborate power management to reduce weight, and bluetooth communication to send the measurements to a portable display that provides full motion video representing the measured wind against the motion of the boat. Read more at Panbo

Does your ship have a Doppler Weather radar installed and, if so, how important is this technology to DP?