Saturday, November 1, 2014

SeaPilot 3.7 Marine Charting App (US Version)


Application: iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, Android versions also
Function: Chart Plotter, Routes, Marks, GPS, AIS, Instrument data
Rating: *****
Cost: App is free, in app purchases

SeaPilot has been around for a while but it was previously only available in Sweden in the Android version of the app.  The recent release of SeaPilot, the US iOS version caught the attention of i-Marine Apps.

There has been quite a dry spell recently with the absence of any new charting apps to write about. Most of the news has just been about updates and the addition of some new features to the existing apps. So I am pumped to see that SeaPilot finally came around and "drank the coolaid" to produce an iOS app for the iPad and iPhone.

SeaPilot was developed by Anders Bergstrom and his company True Heading from Sweden. This spring they rolled out a new division of their company to offer their products to the US and North America. Swedens's waterways are very well known for being covered by an extensive network of AIS markers and buoys. The Swedish government also has their own Internet based AIS system which can be licensed to commercial users.

The app has some nice features including GPS tracking which provide bearing, distance and cross track error to your destination. AIS and instrument data can be acquired from your on board WIFI and AIS network. Routes and Marks allow navigating a pre-defined route or to a waypoint.

The Swedish version of the app is available with charts for Norway, Sweden, Finland, Estonia, Latvia, Poland, Germany, Denmark, Netherlands, Belgium, Great Britain, Ireland, Iceland and France.

Features:
  • Positioning via GPS
  • Visualization of S-57 chart data from National Maritime Administrations
  • AIS data from National Maritime Administrations via Internet (3G or WLAN)
  • Course and speed vector for AIS targets
  • AIS weather data in real time from national weather stations - SWE
  • Autonomous navigation - charts (In-App-purchase) downloaded to the iPad
  • Free chart udates
  • MOB return to a marked position
  • Option to track your own boat on the chart
  • Displays position, course and speed
  • Adjustable speed and course vector
  • Display settings for day, dawn/dusk and night
  • Routes/waypoints (Export/Import functions in GPX-format, save to list)
  • Past track (Export/Import in GPX-format, save to list)
  • Plotting/marking objects (Export/Import in GPX-format, save to list)
  • Electronic bearing and range marker from own vessel
  • True Motion and adjustable North Up / Head Up chart orientation
  • Chart object search
  • AIS target search
  • Setting of safety contour (2, 3, 6, 10 and 15 meters)
  • Hide/show status, tool bar and own AIS target
  • NMEA-0183 interface for connecting external GPS/AIS via WIFI
  • High definition (HD)
  • World chart for rough overview/orientation
  • Facebook integration allows sharing position with friends and family 
The app is very intuitive and easy to use with common touch screen gestures. The main screen displays the charts and instrument data is across the top of the screen. Seven soft keys at the bottom are used to access the other app features and settings.

Charts

To be able to download charts you will have to set up an account with SeaPilot.  You can then download charts after performing an in app purchase. The purchase will be charged to your iTunes account.

Charts can be purchased and downloaded from the Settings Menu using the far right gear looking icon.  For the United States they offer the US-East for $13.99, Great Lakes for $38.99 and US West for $13.99. The app does allow you a few days for a free trial of the charts and features. After that you have to purchase a set.  The prices seem a little on the high side. I am not sure why the Great Lakes Charts are $38.99. They may to be targeting the commercial shipping market at this price.

I trial downloaded the US-East charts for this review. Make sure to use a WiFi connection for a faster download of the charts. The charts are provided in the S57 format so they adhere to the International Maritime Organization (IMO) standards.  This format allows information to be place in layers so the basic chart data is not so cluttered. 

Instruments

The instrument bar at the top displays latitude, longitude, wind speed and direction.  Additional display of wind angle, route to destination, bearing and cross track error readings will appear when you select and activate a route or select GoTo a mark.

If  you want to activate access to the WiFi NMEA data on board your yacht you will have to pay an annual $13.99 fee to license this feature. The app does not accept any NMEA 2000 data at this time.

AIS Data can be downloaded and displayed also over the NMEA connection. The target name, vector and station name can be displayed. The app can use your AIS transponder data on board or it can us an Internet based AIS system. This requires another annual subscription of $19.99.

 GPS Tracking

The SeaPilot app will use the GPS signal from your device if it has one. If your device does not have GPS such as a WiFi only iPad you can use a variety of Bluetooth GPS devices. To select the internal devices GPS go to Settings/Use GPS to turn this feature on. Once the GPS is enabled you should see the latitude and longitude position in the upper left corner of the display. If the data connection is lost it will turn red indicating bad position data.

Routes/Marks

Routes are easily created and modified right on the screen. Tap and hold your finger any where on the chart.  A pop-up box will come up displaying Position, Mark, Route and Weather selections.

Route selection options are Create Route and GoTo.  Tap Create Route and start adding points by tapping on the position you want the route to follow. Route markers can be adjusted by tapping and holding on the mark and moving it to the new location. 

Marks are basically waypoints. These can be created at any location with a tap of your finger.

To select, display, delete and edit your created routes tap the Route icon at the bottom of the page. This is the icon fourth from the left at the bottom of the screen.

Marks can also be selected to display and delete the marks that you have created. Other options can be accessed by selecting the Flag icon at the bottom of the screen.

AIS

SeaPilot has two ways to access AIS data. It can provide AIS targets on your device from an Internet based AIS system such as Marine Traffic or other land based networks. The update speed for these AIS targets is a maximum 10-20 seconds.  AIS targets for the closest 100 vessels to your position are provided for display in the app.  This feature must be purchased annually and will cost $19.99 a year. This feature has to be turned on in Settings/Internet AIS for it to work.

The second way AIS data can be used by the app is with an AIS transponder on board your ship. The AIS transponder is not dependent on an Internet connection to send or receive AIS data for ships near your position.

Weather

The Weather information is provided by the MeteoGroup.  Data includes coastal weather forecasts in one-hour intervals for any position on the chart.  The weather feature requires an Internet connection by WLAN or Mobile coverage. The weather feature must be purchased within the app under Settings/Subscriptions. The Weather data will cost $9.99 for the annual subscription.  This seems kind of steep for basic weather data.

Tap and hold your finger anywhere on the screen to view the weather data at that location.  Note the crosshairs are offset from your finger for accurate placement. As shown in the image, temperature and wind speed and direction are displayed. Hourly data can be viewed by selecting a specific day.

SeaPilot has all the basic features you might want in an introductory app. I like the app and the wide variety of features but find it frustrating that I have to subscribe to each feature separately. The subscriptions are only good for a years so I have to pay for the features all over again year after year. I personally find this pricing a little aggressive when compared to other apps with more features.

Some features that the app is lacking are NMEA 2000 compatibility, GRIB file download, points of interest, tides, anchor alarm, compass display, trip data and expanded instruments data. I hope they will work on adding this functionality.

Charts $13.99-$38.99 per year
AIS $19.99 per year
NMEA Data $13.99 per year
Import/Export $13.99 per year
Mark and Routes $13.99 per year
Weather $9.99 per year

I welcome the SeaPilot app to the US market and hope they can compete with the popular apps like iNavx, SEAiq, Garmin BCM, Navionics and SeaNav.   The more competition the better! That the American way!

Has anyone used the SeaPilot app? I would like to hear what your experience has been.

~~~ Sail On ~~~ /)
Mark


1 comment:

  1. Hi Mark

    Thanks for taking the time to review our app.

    Some comments on pricing. We charge onetime for navtools that are (Import/Export, Mark and Routes, NMEA data)

    Another thing are NMEA2000 that we support through wireless gateways.

    / Seapilot crew

    ReplyDelete