Development of the amigo-crew


For some time Aquacoustics Limited has been thinking about adapting the amigo for the location of in-water crew in competitive  power boat racing.  Following the America’s Cup fatality that occurred in May 2013, and the subsequent investigation report, this development took on a whole new priority.

The amigo had already been proven as an effective underwater navigation aid and the America’s Cup Event Authority (ACEA) were now looking for an in-water crew location device.  Timeframes were incredibly tight because the regatta was due to start on 7 July 2013 giving us just a few weeks to modify the amigo for this specific application, complete production and deliver.

We set about taking the key elements of the amigo transmitter circuit, incorporated a Xenon strobe, and designed an application specific case.  But how would the amigo actually perform in this application?

There was no time to actually build the new transmitter because the ACEA were testing devices in just three days.  We departed for San Francisco with two amigo’s and took part in a series of tests alongside a number of other devices and technologies.  All but one of the competing products were ruled out of contention due to ineffective operation or complexity.  Sure, the amigo had some issues in this application - particularly with close range discrimination, operating in the surface boundary layer and with display intensity - but it’s key strengths were that it worked, ease of use and size.



America’s Cup Test Site - San Francisco


Another set of trials was scheduled by the ACEA but could we modify, build and program two transmitter receiver pairs essentially from scratch in just a week?  The new transmitter cases were 3D printed.  We were able to remove the Xenon flash because the first trial had demonstrated that strobes were completely ineffective on the water.  The receivers were extensively modified in software and hardware to improve the specific application performance (within the limitations of the existing circuit boards and earlier prototype cases).



Assembled Prototype Transmitters in 3D Printed Cases


The new prototypes were assembled, functionally and pressure tested, and ready for dispatch with just three days to spare.  We contemplated taking them to San Francisco by safe-hand, but we were still working more than 24 hours a day gearing up for production and certifications.

Despite three days, hundreds of dollars, and a
‘must get there in time’ commitment
FedEx failed deliver.

Arranging a test with attendance of four rescue-diver teams in the lead-up to a significant event like the America’s Cup is next to impossible and it was immediately apparent that, even if a further test could be arranged, the window for manufacturing before the start of racing had now closed.

We spent some time sole-searching trying to figure what we could have done better but we knew up-front there was no scope for slippage.  So we have moved on to the positives - the amigo-crew was in contention right up to the missed test. As it happens the ACEA did not identify a suitable in-water locator during the second test.  Apparently our opposing product worked but it was not selected due to its complexity.  We know that our latest amigo-crew prototypes were not perfect but we were confident that they were effective operational solution.

With the immediate opportunity lost, we now had time to further enhance the receiver and transmitter, complete further laboratory tests, undertake a reliability analysis across the full operating temperature range and complete our development documentation.  The result is a more robust solution with significant improvements in dynamic ranging and display brightness.  A number of these refinements have also been applied to the amigo.

We have some further field trials to complete but we are totally confident that the amigo-crew will perform effectively and reliably in this application.


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