Cameras Onboard


One of the popular trends we have seen recently, in the recreational boating market, is onboard cameras that integrate easily with modern chartplotters. In the past, it was quite common to view camera feeds however, in this traditional configuration, camera feeds where only easily available in one location.  For example, you could see camera feeds at the lower helm but not the upper. With modern chartplotters, it is now straightforward to interconnect both analog and IP cameras to be viewed in multiple locations.

The advantage with IP cameras is that, in many cases, you only need to run one ethernet cable per camera location for the video feed and the power (called Power Ever Ethernet or POE). Originally installed onboard for security, cameras are now providing an extra set of eyes for cruisers, night vision for inclement conditions, and remote vessel monitoring.

A Recent Installation. To get a good idea of all the different options onboard cameras can provide, we are going to look at a recent installation for a boater who wanted the ability to see around and inside the boat from the flybridge, which has limited visibility.  We installed a total of five different cameras but because the multifunction display (MFD) only had two camera inputs, we added a video switcher that allows him to choose which view he would like on either MFD.

His main goal was to feel comfortable taking the boat out by himself.  We installed two Iris cameras aft, looking down at the port and starboard stern of the boat, allowing for close quarter docking when single-handing or a view of the crew as he approached the dock. Being able to view the crew getting off or on the boat makes docking safer.

We used the same camera in the salon, so he could see what his young grandkids where up to, as well as one in the engine room to quickly glance at the engine compartment in the case of an alarm. This is a great camera for the engine room because it has good low light visibility.

We also installed a wide-view aft-looking camera (commonly called a fish-eye), on top of the anchor light looking aft at the horizon to give a better perspective of the boats following him or so he could check on his tender in tow. Many power boaters have limited visibility aft of their boats from the pilothouse and installing a reverse-image fish-eye camera reduces the blind spot.

Night Vision Camera For Low-Light Navigation. The client also chose to integrate a FLIR thermal night vision camera. On a few occasions, he found himself arriving at his destination later than anticipated and wanted to reduce the associated risks of low-light or night navigation. We choose a FLIR model that allows for full pan, tilt and zoom capability and the image can be directly displayed on the MFD. 

Last year, Raymarine announced their ClearCruise Augmented Reality technology which uses a camera to overlay high definition video directly on the Raymarine Axiom MFDs.  AIS-equipped vessels and charted navigation aids are clearly identified with rich graphics on a live, dynamic video image.  It combines all the traditional aids to navigation over a real world image directly on the MFD.

Another easy way to get onboard monitoring if you already have Wi-Fi onboard, is to simply install a Nest or Arlo camera system that allows remote monitoring.  The camera can be directed towards the DC panel to view the shore power or battery status and can be displayed directly on your smart phone.

With modern chartplotters easily displaying video images, more boaters are taking advantage of installing cameras. The safety features and peace of mind provided by onboard cameras are well worth the investment. 

About the author: Jeff Cote is the owner of Pacific Yacht Systems, a full service shop delivering marine electrical and navigation solutions for recreational boats. Visit their website and blog for info and articles on marine electrical systems, projects and more: