With all the very rapid advances in technology, what do you think the environment of boating will look like in just a few years? Sometimes feel my age when discussing conventional navigation and boating safety to a class or seminar. Mercator projection now a foreign word, charting always routinely performed by high speed GPS. No longer are the depths below you a secret, in full view with 3D sonar, even cameras that can peer below. Night vision optics that can see the surface in darkness and inclement weather. There are countless more developments and definitely not enough room to adequately discuss in just one article.
With regards to the military; there is a new class of vessel that is now part of the US Navy, the USS Zumwalt DDG1000 https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USS_Zumwalt As you can see it looks nothing like a normal warship, almost the flare of a WWI battleship or a dreadnaught. What makes this vessel so unique is the 610' stealth design paints a target about the size of a small fishing boat on the radar. It is so stealthy that it is considered a hazard to other navigation because of its invisibility by normal sensors found on commercial and pleasure type vessels.
Pleasure boats and yachts are quickly transforming as well. Glass cockpits replacing small instrument clusters, radars without pulse generating magnetrons using broadband that are extremely accurate. The bright, vivid, easy to understand radar presentation measuring long distances and most remarkably, at extremely close proximity to your vessel without any radiation hazard.
A safety tip on using radar: It's not how far away you can see, navigation hazards are found close by.
GPS is immediate and precise, a location fix or position every second is considered the norm. Navigational charts not only show standard cartography, but Google Earth pictures of the surrounding shore and the bottom of the ocean, river, or lake, depending on the depth. Control and propulsion systems are drastically reforming into different technologies. Rudder and propellers are substituted by extremely versatile water jets providing incredible speed and agility.
What do I think boating will look like in a few years? Nothing compared to today! Even professional license education is morphing into ultra-modern requirements of training with advanced navigation systems such as electronic charting, high tech radar and sonar sensors, and cartography presentation in 3D satellite composite form.
Some would question; why need to know the basics, the prerequisites in USCG licensing and boating safety? The simple answer, it all comes down to the decision you make when the moment on the water arrives. Depending on only one source of navigation and collision avoidance information can lead into less than desired results and increased risk.
My glimpse of the future of boating...Remarkable progress to the already vast array of choices of advanced electronics and systems. In the end, the basics will still be the foundation to safe boating as they are today. That basic component of boating safety will not change with time, just increase in scope and complexity.