Product Review: Transas Pilot Pro App: John Clandillon-Baker FNI

Several years ago Transas produced their iSailor app for iPads & iPhones. Based on their professional ECN vector charting system, the app provided a reasonably priced user friendly Electronic Charting System (ECS). Around 3 years ago Transas invited several pilots from different ports to participate in developing a professional version specifically for pilots. Released in 2013 the program has been regularly updated with new features and development is on-going so this review can only serve to highlight the primary features.
The question may well be asked that since all vessels will be fitted with ECDIS in the next few years what’s the point of using a tablet device?The main answer is that with so many ECDIS platforms in use, no pilot can possibly be competent in using a ship’s ECDIS and another factor is the simple clarity of display as revealed by the comparison  photos below of the same situation.








The Basics

The PilotPro uses the same chart cells as the iSailor and so deciding on whether or not to upgrade to the more expensive, subscription based, professional app is very much dependent upon the individual needs of a pilot. Obviously, like all ECS, the charts aren’t to be used for navigation but provide a useful aid to navigation and a valuable tool for the Master Pilot Exchange (MPEX). I’ve found that with both versions, the ability to rapidly scroll and zoom to the intended berth is particularly appreciated by Masters visiting the port for the first time. Both apps can run as standalone using the internal GPS for positioning, use a router connected to the AIS pilot plug or independent pod. Although primarily designed for leisure users the basic iSailor can provide a simple aid for pilots with most ports only requiring a single chart area (cost £18.99). The manual is available on-line:




Scrolling & zooming is very quick & easy


Pilot Pro

At the time of writing this article the PP app costs a one off charge of €300 (approx. £265.00) and each chart folio costs €150 (£130.00) per annum which provides monthly chart updates. An additional data module which provides on-line weather and AIS along with a tide and current database costs €90 (£80.00)
per annum.

So, what extra features do you get for the pro subscription app? The answer is a lot and far too numerous to detail in this article but, again a pdf manual is available on-line and can be downloaded from which will enable potential users to assess the product with respect to their specific needs.

Hardware required

Tablet: Currently, the app is only available for the iPad although the basic iSailor is now also available for Android devices. The iPad positioning (iOS positioning) is more than just GPS and is a really good feature of the iPad. This gives the iPad the edge on ordinary laptops. – Excellent if you lose everything.

Router: Although Pilot Pro will run well using the iPad‚ internal GPS, many of the features such as the docking mode, will only function if the iPad is connected to a router via the ship‚ AIS pilot plug or external input. Several routers are available ranging from the basic AIS pilot plug router to the will stand alone‚ sophisticated units such as Inshore Systems’ (Navicom Dynamics) Channel Pilot and Gyro Pilot units.

Key features (without any additional equipment)

The main feature is of course the vector chart with enhanced detail being revealed when zooming in. Both zooming and scrolling are very smooth, a feature which I’ve found particularly useful for showing Masters the intended berth during the MPEX procedure. Transas have an agreement with the UKHO and their charts contain exactly the same info but displayed in a slightly different way. Updates are monthly rather than weekly but otherwise Transas charts are just as good.

Chart Correcting: Although the charts are updated regularly as per NTM’s it’s very easy to do manual chart corrections such as depths and buoys etc.

Setting routes: This is also very simple using drag and drop to place /adjust waypoints as shown over the page. Once set, speeds can either be set individually for each leg or globally for all legs. The ship’s dimensions and “conning position” can be manually input for critical passage monitoring.



Setting routes is a very simple drag & drop operation

Soundings & contours: Spot soundings appear when zooming in with increasing detail with the zoom. The soundings displayed can be filtered as required.



Zooming in on the chart brings up additional layers & information

Safety depths can be set and any soundings shallower than the depth chosen will be displayed in red (see above screen shots where the safety depth was set to 7m). Safety contours can also beset but these follow the charting contours so, for example setting a safety contour at 4m will highlight the 5m contour in red and setting it to 6m will highlight the 10m contour. All these features are quick and easy to set/adjust from the charting menu. However, the major drawback of using the app as a stand alone unit is the lack of heading input so there’s only a course over ground (COG) vector, resultant from the internal GPS. Consequently it is useless for manoeuvring.

Optional add-ons: For an additional annual charge, overlays for internet AIS, tide heights and flows and wind are available with access via the local mobile phone network coverage area. With respect to the AIS internet feature there’s frequently a time lag of a few minutes so initially your ship will be seen astern of your actual position. This can be corrected by clicking on the target and selecting “set as own ship”. This will correct the AIS target to the own ship position but not that of other targets so their displayed positions may be inaccurate

Key features (With pilot plug router or stand alone pod)

Whilst the basic PilotPro chart is excellent, it’s debatable whetheror not the additional features merit the extra cost of the PilotPro compared to the basic iSailor app if solely used as a stand alone aid. As a basic add-on, Transas now recommend the “PilotsTech” pilot plug wi-fi router ( which has an integrated rechargeable (charger supplied) lithium battery with a life of up to 70 hours between charges. I have found this unit to provide very reliable connectivity. Once connected to the pilot plug and the connection settings have been entered, the app will remember these for future use and automatically connect to the iPad when plugged in and switched on.

AIS pilot plug input: In addition to accurate AIS information from vessels within range, the app will
pick up the own ship heading, Course Over Ground  (COG), GPS speed over ground (SOG) and the rate of turn (ROT). It also supplies the app with the vessel’s dimensions and the position of the AIS aerial which is important for use in the docking mode.

AIS: The AIS information is comprehensive, permitting targets to be interrogated and enhanced information can be accessed if the optional Internet AIS pack is purchased. Double tapping on a target results in a meeting point being generated.


The AIS shows the tug positions. Note the jetty lines on the jetty and marking the Southern edge of the channel


Departing the berth with distances being shown from the jetty and channel lines. Unit switched to night mode. The ship shapes are 1 minute apart

Heading, COG, SOG: I’ve found all of these inputs to be highly accurate and on vessels fitted with ECDIS I’ve carried out comparisons and found these inputs to be identical. However, it must always be remembered that a ship’s AIS is generally low grade and rarely incorporates DGPS.

ROT: I’ve found this to be the most unreliable feature with many vessels not providing the required data through the pilot plug. There is a facility within the app to calculate the ROT but whilst this provides a useful guide it is not fully accurate and should never be relied on. A report into a groundingin Canada highlighted ROTinaccuracy issues on a PPU:

Despite the above caution I have found that when in the docking mode and at slow speed (where smoothing intervals are less critical), the calculated ROT provides a useful aid to the process.


Manoeuvring showing the calculated ROT which correctly indicates clearing the vessel moored alongside. Note the heading line and COG vector which only indicates the instantaneous COG vector of the GPS aerial.

Docking Mode: For a simple app I’ve been very impressed as to how effective the docking mode is given that the data is being generated from a single aerial input. The orientation can be set between N Up, Course Up or Head Up and I’ve found Head Up to be the optimum display with data readouts displayed alongside. Distance lines can be set from the bow and stern and/or the shoulders to jetty lines which, like routes are quick and easy to set up. Accuracy of the calculated bow and stern vectors varies in accuracy but, although nowhere near as accurate as a proper PPU and should never be used in isolation it provides a reasonably accurate guide to assessing a manoeuvre.


In the docking mode. Note the red data which indicates a temporary loss of data input


Data restored and the vessel swung and getting underway. 

Although the Pilot Pro app in no way approaches the sophistication and accuracy of a top range PPU, it does provide an excellent and relatively low cost aid to pilotage, especially for estuarial and channel transit areas. From the outset Transas have developed the program in consultation with several pilots from around the world and consequently the app is evolving all the time as a result of feedback from users. For example, they are currently planning to expand the existing basic chart track recording facility into a full recording/replay feature.

Overall I’ve been favourably impressed by the ease of use of and it’s features. This review obviously just touches on the periphery of the increasingly sophisticated apps which can be run on tablet devices as an aid to pilotage and I only have experience of the iSailor and PilotPro apps linked to the PilotsTech router and Navicom Dynamics Channel Pilot and Gyro Pilot external input devices.The other main tablet charting and docking apps are: Marimatech’s SafePilot chart with their associated CAT1 & CAT ROT units. SEAiq Charting app compatible with all external input devices ADNav’s ADQ2 pilot plug router Digital Yacht: Pilot Link AIS router. Since I’ve never used any of these other charts/devices I’m unable to offer any comparison with the Pilot Pro app.



The above article was written early in 2016 whilst using a “Pilotstech” AIS router which transmits the data from the ship’s pilot plug via wi-fi.


This unit is relatively cheap, compact and has the additional advantage of a rechargeable Li-ion battery  which gives 50 – 70 hours between charges. I’ve found it to an excellent aid to pilotage with remarkably good accuracy when used with the PilotPro in docking mode. Details of the unit can be found on the pilots tech website 


gyro pilot

Navicom Dynamics are specialists in pilotage modules for use with PPU’s or tablets. The Gyro Pilot is similar to the Pilotstech unit in that it plugs into the ship’s pilot plug and transmits the data to the receiver via wi-fi orBluetooth. Although about twice the size of the Pilotstech unit it is still small enough to fit in a pilot’s jacket pocket. The main advantage of the Gyro Pilot unit is that it contains an integrated gyro which generates a smoothed and very accurate ROT which in turn greatly enhances the accuracy of a single aerial unit when berthing or docking. Again this unit has a rechargeable li-ion battery which provides a useful 25 – 30 hours usage between charges. The enhanced, specialist technology and integrated gyro obviously results in this unit being more expensive than the Pilotstech unit. Read the brochure here.


channel pilot

The Channel Pilot offers the same single aerial accuracy as the Gyro Pilot with the advantage of providing position and AIS data independent of the ship’s AIS and thus eliminates the connection to the ship’s pilot plug. The unit has a strong magnetic base for placing on a ship’s rail since, for best reception, it should be placed outside the wheelhouse. Dependent on location, the AIS receiver picks up other vessels at an average range of around 10 miles.

Although larger than the Gyro Pilot, the removable aerial means that the unit can still fit in a large pocket and the Li-ion battery lasts up to 15 hrs between charges. The autonomy of this unit has advantages over pilot plug data input and the brochure can be read here



Although I haven’t trailed this unit, I understand from colleagues that it’s a top of the range unit whose dual aerial input provides top of the range accuracy for high precision PPU docking manoeuvres. Full details are in the brochure here.


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