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The Radar Revolution

This ain't your Dad's obstacle detector. Meet the class of 2006.

October 4, 2007
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Back in 1904, Christian Hulsmeyer took out a patent on an invention he called an obstacle detector. Since then, radar has gone from being a piece of military and commercial equipment to becoming a standard on many larger yachts. Today, radar equipment suitable for yachts can provide performance equal, or in some areas superior, to what is available in the International Maritime Organization (IMO)-approved sets required on ships. In fact, in some areas IMO requirements (which must be coordinated and approved by a laborious multination process) actually lag behind what is already available in non-IMO units.

For less than $1,000 you can buy a well-featured 16- to 24-mile-range radar set, although spend more and you can extend that up to 120 miles. That will get you a system that uses digital signal processing, includes numerous automatic adjustments and, in some instances, a color LCD screen (in place of the once-ubiquitous CRT). Peak envelope power produced by the transmitter’s magnetron now ranges between 1.6 and 60kW. Antenna length, a major determinate of the radar’s ability to discern closely spaced targets, can be as short as 12 inches and as long as 12 feet for the X-band sets used on most yachts.

The equipment is available in both stand-alone, radar-only units and in combination units with related navigation equipment, including chart plotters, sonar, weatherfax and video information displays. Multifunction radar/navigation systems are available in conventional processor/control/display packages and in black-box formats that greatly simplify installation and operation. Some radars primarily intended for smaller craft locate virtually all of the electronics in the radome-enclosed antenna and connect to a standard personal computer via a small, easily installed coaxial cable.

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Automatic radar plotting (ARP) target acquisition capability, once reserved for large systems, is now widely available. On-screen display of automatic identification system (AIS) information is increasingly common and can greatly simplify identification of commercial vessel targets. On-screen menu control of radar and related display operations make it practical to minimize or even eliminate conventional discrete function control panels.

This may all sound great but keep in mind one thing: Radars are still just obstacle detectors. Collision avoidance relies on your plotting the changing positions of potentially challenging targets. Still, the following will help set your mind at ease. Here’s what’s new for 2006.

Furuno

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Furuno builds radars for everything from small craft and yacht tenders to IMO-compliant sets for the largest ships afloat. The company’s small radars include the monochrome, 6.5-inch LCD, 15-inch radome, 2.2kW 16-mile model 1623. The 7-inch CRT screen model 1731 Mk3 is a 4kW 36-mile set with a 24-inch diameter radome that provides a 3.9 degree horizontal beam width. All other 1700 series radars use monochrome or color LCD screens. Antenna sizes range from 18-inch radomes to 3.5-foot open arrays with transmitter power from 2.2 to 4.0kW, providing maximum ranges from 24 to 48 nautical miles. All but three of the radars in this group (1623, 1717 and 1731 Mk3) are NavNet multifunction units. Models are available for use with Furuno/Navionics cartography or with C-Map NT charts.

The 1800 and 1900 series include three 10-inch monochrome CRT display units with 36-, 48- and 64-mile maximum range capability from 4 or 6kW transmitters, five 12-inch monochrome CRT sets with 6 to 25kW transmitters and range capability to 96 nautical miles. Two 15-inch color CRT radars that can be configured to comply with IMO requirements are available with 12 or 25kW transmitters and 72- or 96-nautical-mile range capability. The majority of the radars in this product group are NavNet devices that combine radar with chart plotter and related data displays. Many of the systems are offered in black-box versions where the data processing functions are housed separately from the display and controls. Several display screens of various sizes are available for use with the black-box radars.

The largest radars in the Furuno line include both conventionally packaged and black box sets. Color CRT display units include 17-, 21- and 28-inch screens with X- and S-band transmitter power up to 60kW for ranges out to 120 nautical miles. Color LCD screen units in this product group are available in both 21- and 23.1-inch sizes with identical choices in power, operating frequency and range. Virtually all control functions for these radar sets are managed via on-screen menus. Contact: www.furunousa.com

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Garmin

Garmin, best known for its aviation navigation and communication systems and GPS-based marine navigation systems, offers two radome-equipped units: the GMR 20, a 2kW unit with a 24-mile maximum range and the companion GMR 40, using a 4kW transmitter to provide a range up to 36 miles. Both units are designed to function as a part of Garmin’s GPSMAP 3006/3010 multifunction navigation data display. The antenna provides a horizontal beam angle of 3.6 degrees. A mini ARPA capable of tracking up to 10 targets is available when the radar sensor is used with a magnetic heading sensor-equipped 3006/3010 MFD. The system provides dual, fixed or floating reference VRM/EBL capability as well as a zoom mode. Contact: www.garmin.com

Japan Radio Company (JRC)

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JRC’s marine radars range from the 6.5-inch monochrome LCD sets, the 1000MkII 1.5kW, and the 1500MkII, 2kW, 16 nautical mile stand-alone units to large, IMO-compliant units. The JMA-2343 and JMA-2344 use 10-inch CRT displays with 4 and 6kW transmitters to provide range capability of 48 and 64 nautical miles. Radar/plotter offerings include the 1800CP, a 6.5-inch color LCD-equipped unit with an 18-inch radome antenna and 2kW transmitter that allow a maximum range of 24 nautical miles using C-Map NT+ cartography. Recent introductions include three black-box systems, the JMA-5104, 5106 and 5110. The transmitters in these three units operate at 4, 6 and 10kW. The 5104’s 24-inch radome antenna provides a maximum range of 48 miles while the higher power transmitters in the 5106 and 5110 use 4- and 6-foot open-array antennas to deliver a 72-mile range capability. The most common display screen used with these systems is a vertical or horizontal orientation 10.4-inch color LCD. All three systems can provide radar data to external chart plotters. The JMA-5300 series is JRC’s latest non-IMO radar product. A black-box design is available with a choice of open-array antennas ranging from 6 to 12 feet and transmitter power from 10 to 30kW. Display is on an 18.1-inch color LCD. On-screen menus control most of the radar’s functions. Contact: www.jrc.co.jp

Kelvin Hughes

Kelvin Hughes radars are most often found on commercial vessels, although a number of large yachts use its gear. The Manta black-box radar is a 10kW X-band ARPA system with 50-target functionality. It can use a wide range of display screens and is managed via a multikey trackball and on-screen menus. The other products in the Manta range include the 1700, 2000 and 2300, equipped with flat TFT LCD screens providing circular radar displays ranging in size from 250 to 340mm with on-screen menus outside the circular radar image area. The systems are available in a variety of mounting styles, including desktop, console and flush-panel mounted. A wide range of transmitters are available, including 10 and 25kW X-band and a 30kW S-band upmast mounted units and 25 and 30kW downmast units for X- and S- band operation. Contact: www.kelvinhughes.com

Raymarine

Raymarine’s Pathfinder series includes two 7-inch and two 10-inch monochrome CRT display units. The LCD screen Pathfinder line includes three 7-inch monochrome, two 7-inch color LCD-equipped sets and a 10.4-inch color LCD unit. These Pathfinder scanner options include 2kW, 18-inch diameter and 4kW, 24-inch diameter radome units and 4 and 10kW, 4- and 6-foot open-array antennas with maximum range capability out to 72 nautical miles. The various scanners can be used in conjunction with a variety of displays, including those in the SL and RL series plus the latest 7-, 8- and 12-inch color LCD C series and the E80, 8.4-inch and E120, 12.1-inch units. The radar scanners can also be integrated with Raymarine’s H6 navigation, entertainment and vessel security system. Contact: www.raymarine.com

Si-Tex

Si-Tex’s marine radars include the T-700 series 6.5-inch color LCD screen models, the T-1040, 10.4-inch dual-range color display and the T-1500, 15-inch diagonal color LCD units. The RADARpc is a radar sensor that uses a standard PC with the Windows operating system as the control and display element. Si-Tex radome scanners compatible with the T-700 and T-1040 series radars include the 18-inch, 2kW, 24-nautical mile T-721 and the 25-inch, 4kW, 36-nautical mile T-741 versions, plus the T-740, 4kW, 48-nautical mile, 42- or 54-inch open-arrays. The larger T-1500 series displays can be used with the 4kW radome or open-array antennas or with the 6-, 12- or 25kW transmitters with open-array antennas up to 9 feet in length providing a maximum range of 120 nautical miles. Two monochrome 10-inch CRT display units are available: the radome equipped, 4kW, 32-nautical mile T-195 and the 48-nautical mile 4kW with 4- or 5-foot open-array antennas. Contact: www.si-tex.com

Sperry Marine

Now a part of Northrop Grumman, Sperry Marine devotes most of its radar efforts to the commercial world. Its radar products build upon the more than 50 years of Decca Radar experience. Two of Sperry Marine’s BridgeMaster E series radars are often chosen for large-yacht installations. The 180 and 250 EPA (L) (electronic plotting aid) series radars are type-approved under IMO carriage rules and use either 180- or 250-mm flat-panel TFT LCD screens. Scanners include 4-, 6- or 8-foot open-array antennas with 10kW or 25kW X-band transmitters. Sperry’s latest radar, the E 340, is fully approved for S-band, X-band, for up- and downmast transceiver configurations for both conventional and high-speed craft. A dual-channel version combines the data from both S- and X-band into a single integrated display. Contact: www.sperrymarine.com

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