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What is a Portable Pilot Unit?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 25 September 2016
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    2003-2016
    Conjecture Corporation
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Portable pilot units are navigation devices that are increasing used in maritime applications, notably cruise ships. Often referred to as a PPU, the device helps the pilot to safely navigate into and out of harbors and other areas where obstacles could impede the progress of the vessel. Many PPUs on the market today are small enough to be hand held, or can be attached permanently in an open air section of the ship.

In many instances, the portable pilot unit of today makes use of GPS technology to aid in the process of piloting the vessel safely to shore. Several models include a full color visual display that is created using data received from a direct satellite link. The data can also be converted into digital display as well, making it easy for the pilot to make use of both the visual and digital information to correct the course of the vessel as needed.

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A number of the current models of the portable pilot unit also include a self-check feature. Essentially, this feature will allow the device to make readings within a given range on its own. These readings can be compared to data received via the satellite link and corrections for any temporary anomalies made with ease. Auto-correction protocols help the portable pilot unit to function in a way that the display of a simple map would never be able to accomplish. This degree of adaptability helps the portable pilot unit to be an active navigating device that allows the pilot to respond to real time conditions, rather than a passive one that relies on historical data only.

Hand held versions of the portable pilot unit are favored by many pilots today. While somewhat limited in range, this type of pilot can easily be used from any position on the ship. Just as the larger models that are normally set up in strategic positions on deck, these hand held versions feature a water resistant plastic shell that helps to minimize the impact of moisture and salt air on the function of the device. Because of the construction of the portable pilot unit, it is possible to leave the device in open air for long periods of time.

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