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For Book: Automatic Sailboat GPS
Old 02-11-2019, 11:37 AM   #1
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For Book: Automatic Sailboat GPS

In the year 2031, I've got a woman sailing from Hawaii to Seattle. She dies.

I want the sailboat's GPS to be reporting her position. Ideally, this works intermittently. IOW, there are no reports, then suddenly, someone who has been monitoring her position gets a report.

Is that reasonable?
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Old 02-11-2019, 11:44 AM   #2
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Yes. You need to research sails and storms. Perhaps a boom swings while she is in the process of lowering the mainsail, hitting her in the head and killing her. GPS powered by solar.
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Old 02-11-2019, 11:48 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
In the year 2031, I've got a woman sailing from Hawaii to Seattle. She dies.

I want the sailboat's GPS to be reporting her position. Ideally, this works intermittently. IOW, there are no reports, then suddenly, someone who has been monitoring her position gets a report.

Is that reasonable?
What you are talking about is a GPS tracking beacon, which reports position at regular intervals. The person on shore has to use theinternet to get the reports. If there is no internet,no reports

Again, need more info. Is the autopilot engaged, or is the boat adrift?
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Old 02-11-2019, 11:54 AM   #4
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What you are talking about is a GPS tracking beacon, which reports position at regular intervals. The person on shore has to use theinternet to get the reports. If there is no internet,no reports

Again, need more info. Is the autopilot engaged, or is the boat adrift?
In 2031, the "internet" will not be what you think it is. There are already transponders that send out intermittent signals that can be detected via antenna..in 2019.

Here is an example: https://digitalyachtamerica.com/product/ait1500/

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As well as transmitting your own vessel’s position so that other AIS equipped vessels know where you are, the AIT1500, when connected to an existing VHF antenna (via a splitter) or dedicated AIS antenna, will receive all AIS targets within range of your boat – typically up to 30NM
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Old 02-11-2019, 12:20 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by TromboneAl View Post
In the year 2031, I've got a woman sailing from Hawaii to Seattle. She dies.

I want the sailboat's GPS to be reporting her position. Ideally, this works intermittently. IOW, there are no reports, then suddenly, someone who has been monitoring her position gets a report.

Is that reasonable?

Yepp. I was recently at the ringling museum and my GPS did not work. It also failed for my father when he was navigating.



So either the transmission of the signal to the satellite, or the satellite's reception of the signal, or the software and all the tech in between that makes it happen could certainly cause GPS to fail.


If there was GLONASS + GPS, it might be tougher to convince the reader. But just remember that Malaysian Airliner that basically vanished at one point, only for the planes remains to be found years later. Totally plausible.
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Old 02-11-2019, 01:51 PM   #6
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Instead of having a boat tracker, you could have a personal tracker.


You could describe your victim as pushing a button on the GPS tracker every day so that the signal would not go out. Then, after she's dead, she doesn't press the button, so suddenly the signal goes out. Anyone who was watching her position (on the Internet), would see the new GPS location show-up. Of course this can be made private or public on the Internet. Or it can be public and anonymous (see below).



Alternatively, you could have the tracker always on, and nobody knows where to look on the Internet. Then the rich helicopter person has an epiphany, realizes what user name she used on the "Spot Tracker" web site, and BOOM! he's the only one that knows where she is.


EDIT: I just read the first post in the 'short wave' thread and see it says "No Internet".
So in that case, you'd have to say there's a company that's got satellite communication, which exists today. The GPS tracker sends it's position to that company's satellite and the helicopter person queries the satellite directly.
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Old 02-11-2019, 02:25 PM   #7
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Good info. Thanks.

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Originally Posted by Souschef View Post
Again, need more info. Is the autopilot engaged, or is the boat adrift?
She's sailing solo, and at some earlier port, she had contracted the deadly flu that is starting to work its way around the world. She dies. The internet will still be functional at that point.

I could have autopilot on or off when she succumbs.
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Old 02-11-2019, 04:18 PM   #8
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And by 2031, gps accuracy will be such her personal tracker will indicate precisely where she is on the boat
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Old 02-11-2019, 07:56 PM   #9
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I thought this story was pretty interesting. It reminded me of your post about tracking.
https://www.dallasnews.com/news/texa...n-man-scotland

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Every week, the man had activated a high-tech personal locator beacon to let friends and family know he was all right, the news site said. But last weekend, feeling weak and dizzy, he was prompted to do something he'd never done before: turn on the device's SOS signal to call for help.

The beacon somehow missed authorities in the United Kingdom — but Sunday evening, 9,000 miles away, Houston's International Emergency Response Coordination Center noticed the signal.

The center, which monitors the airwaves for such calls, alerted U.K. officials.
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Old 02-11-2019, 08:54 PM   #10
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I thought this story was pretty interesting. It reminded me of your post about tracking.
https://www.dallasnews.com/news/texa...n-man-scotland
Very neat.
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Old 02-12-2019, 07:07 AM   #11
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Here are a couple of data points which might help you extrapolate:

There is currently a system called "AIS" (Automatic Information System - original, huh?) which commercial ships are required to use, similar to airplane transponders.

Most recreational cruisers have them now, too. They broadcast the boat's position and other information over VHF, which means any other vessels in the area can (and do) plot each others' positions on their own displays. There are also satellites which receive these signals and make them available (for a fee) over the internet, so anyone anywhere can also track ships (vesselfinder.com, findship.com).

Autonomous cargo ships are just around the corner. Basically "drone ships" with a high-speed satellite uplink to a command center where they can not only steer the ship and see images from it, but monitor engines, cargo, etc. There's fierce competition to get these to market, and testing on real ships is underway.

The problem with sailboats is some owners are very frugal (the wind is free, so everything else should be, too) and are reluctant to use their electronics underway. However, solar is very widely used now, and battery technology is improving all the time, so even today there's really no technical reason to feel this way. Mentally, however, there will continue to be resistance to "new-fangled" stuff in some corners of the sailing community that far into the future. Just a wrinkle to work into your character's personality, or not.
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Old 02-12-2019, 09:05 AM   #12
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Maybe have all satellites fail, or enough fail to make reporting in an area blacked out. This actually happened with a Sat phone company's sats; they didn't shield some part of the circuitry and the solar radiation caused the molecular structure of components to change enough that the sat eventually failed. As more and more of them failed, signal coverage dropped out in spots until eventually huge areas were dead.

Have your woman sail in and out of these dead zones for her GPS reporting being intermittent and don't kill her off, have a global awareness of the woman's predicament and world wide manhunt undertaken each time the GPS signal pops up. As time goes by and the dead areas get larger and larger, the signals received are fewer and fewer. How she survived is the story within the story of how the world is kept aware through news reports and the third story of those who attempt to track her position.
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Old 02-12-2019, 09:14 AM   #13
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Maybe have all satellites fail, or enough fail to make reporting in an area blacked out. This actually happened with a Sat phone company's sats; they didn't shield some part of the circuitry and the solar radiation caused the molecular structure of components to change enough that the sat eventually failed. As more and more of them failed, signal coverage dropped out in spots until eventually huge areas were dead.


This used to happen with gps signals a lot in the early 1990’s. At least with survey grade gps. We would need at least 5 satellites more than 15° above the horizon and without obstructions in order to get a position fix. There were outages daily.
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Old 02-12-2019, 09:24 AM   #14
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Hey @T-Al, why do you make so much effort to be realistic and accurate in your books since they are fictional anyway? And when do you, if you do, decide to gloss over reality or dodge physics in order for your stories to work?

I had a plot line for a novel once, and quickly found out that it wasn't realistic - it's just not how things truly happen. I thought it was so compelling that I've thought about writing it anyway.

Interested in your thoughts on this. Feel free to have me or mods put it in a new thread or PM as you wish.
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Old 02-12-2019, 11:35 AM   #15
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Hey @T-Al, why do you make so much effort to be realistic and accurate in your books since they are fictional anyway? And when do you, if you do, decide to gloss over reality or dodge physics in order for your stories to work?

I had a plot line for a novel once, and quickly found out that it wasn't realistic - it's just not how things truly happen. I thought it was so compelling that I've thought about writing it anyway.

Interested in your thoughts on this. Feel free to have me or mods put it in a new thread or PM as you wish.
Excellent question. The answer is that some readers get very annoyed if they think something isn't realistic. Now, perhaps those readers are just more vocal, but something that they think is off makes them want to "throw the book against the wall."

I learned about this with my first book, Contact Us. In it, 70% of the population is culled by an alien. Critiquers said, "Oh, no. If that happened everything would go to heck, everyone would be depressed, everyone would die, etc."

So, for better or worse, I ended up spending a lot of time explaining how people coped. For example, here's a news conference in the book:
“Aren’t our cattle and livestock going to die?”

“Cows and pigs and chickens have been living fine without us for centuries—”

“But what about the ones that are concentrated in feedlots?”

“Yes, we are going to lose some of those. We are redistributing farmworkers to handle it, but please keep in mind that although supply may be reduced somewhat, demand is also being reduced.”

Shawnette followed up on her question. “Yes, demand for pork, for example, may be down seventy percent, but no pigs died. So we have a lot more pigs per person than we used to. Won’t that make it hard to manage?”

“Well, Shawnette, of course I’m not a pig expert, but even if many of the pigs that are concentrated in feedlots die, it will be manageable. We’ll get farmers redistributed soon. Let’s move on.”

“Okay.” Shawnette consulted her list again, “You talked about redistribution. Does that mean that someone from, say, New York might have to move to California, away from her family?”

“Short answer: yes. Long answer: we’re working hard to avoid long distance relocations, and we expect that they will be rare. But yes, workers may be asked to relocate hundreds of miles away. I hope that they will be able to accept this as a temporary inconvenience that will greatly benefit their country. I can take one more question.”
I myself, when watching a movie, often say, "Oh, that would never happen in real life," or, "How can they get away with something like that when I can't?"

So, I try to head off those objections ahead of time. It's a bother.

>And when do you, if you do, decide to gloss over reality or dodge physics in order for your stories to work?

I can usually figure out some way to work things out. Having the stories in the near future helps. I can make a case that things will be different then. For example, I needed a biomedical advance in The Protected Witness, but I wanted some other things to be not much different from today, so I wrote (with a dig at the current government):
Advances like that gave the twenties the nickname “The Biomedical Decade.” Due to a pendulum swing away from science and engineering in the late teens, the pace of technological advancement had slowed dramatically. Biomedicine was the happy exception.
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Old 02-12-2019, 12:38 PM   #16
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Thanks!!
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Old 02-12-2019, 02:04 PM   #17
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Yup, I expect internal consistency in the science fiction I read. I'm fine with there being places of handwaving like let's assume FTL travel and artificial gravity, but the closer you get to the real world and modern day, the more it matters that it match up with reality. I'm appreciating Al's efforts to get these sorts of details right, it makes me more interested to read his work.
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