Sunday, 12 September 2010

Broadband Radar for Sailboats

Broadband radar for sailboats has come a long way in a very short time. It has so many advantages with so little downside that it has to be the radar of choice for all cruisers whether it be a new installation or a replacement for your old tired unit. Apart from the clarity, sharpness and integrity of the image, the marked drop in power useage and instant 'power up' are two other major features of interest to cruisers. Take a look at the image here for a comparison with the earlier pulse systems and Broadband and also the video to see the difference for yourself.

The following article is from 'FishingGear Guru' a website devoted to better fishing:

'Forget about bang suppression, the necessary radar programming that causes that ring up to 100’ around the boat, which shows up as solid on-screen. New Broadband technology fromNavico (parent company to Lowrance, Simrad, Northstar, and others) eliminates the big bang, offering visibility and awesome target discrimination mere feet from the radome. Plus, small boats that couldn’t support the weight and power consumption a radome requires can now see through the fog and the darkness. This system is a game-changer, making it possible to install a dome on virtually any boat large enough to support a T-top or arch.

The dome is a mere 11” tall, 19” around, and weighs just 16-pounds. How can this unit be so light, small, energy efficient, and yet still see up to 24 miles into the distance? Traditional radars send out a microwave pulse, then measure the amount of time it takes for that pulse to be reflected by a target. In doing so, they pull enough juice to drain a single marine battery in a matter of hours. On top of that, they radiate a significant amount of energy and when installed in an improper location, may zap you or your passengers with microwave radiation. But Navico’s new Broadband radar sends out a continuous transmission wave with a 5.2-degree horizontal beam width, which increases in frequency as it moves away from the dome. The difference between frequency in the transmitted and returned wave is how the unit determines target distance. That means this system uses less energy to make radiation-free transmissions, eliminating the power concerns you’d have on a radar-equipped boat with a single battery and close proximity to the dome. Though I had no way to check it for myself, Navico claims the power transmission is a mere 1/2000th as much as traditional radar, which is about a tenth of the power a cell phone uses.

What I could check out for myself was the result of using frequency instead of time reflection, when I jumped aboard Navico’s broadband-equipped test boat at the Miami boat show. Target definition in the shorter ranges is phenomenal, good enough to see the difference between piers and the boats moored at them. In fact – I am NOT making this up – we could see two gulls sitting on the water about 30’ from the boat, on-screen. And that “dead zone” of blank space around the boat is completely eliminated with this system, so you can get returns on boats, land, and other structures just feet away from your own boat. We approached a pole and when the bow of the boat was so close someone had to fend off, the pole still showed on the radar. A sailboat just 50’ away—in the bang zone of regular radar—showed up on-screen clear as day; one of these pictures shows the screen shot at the moment, and the other, of the sailboat providing the return in the lower right corner. Even on longer ranges up to 10 miles or so, you can expect target resolution in the two to three meter range. Plus, the antenna uses all solid-state parts, which means there’s no warm-up time—just flip a switch, and the unit’s up and running.

Put all of these factors together, and you have a unit that can be easily mounted and run on a platform far smaller than any that could accommodate a radar prior to Broadband. Big boats will want it too, for close-use when the fog’s thick…and the blind zone created by bang suppression could cause you to bang into something in your way.'

Article courtesy Lenny Rudow of FishingGearGuru

You can read more about incidents with radar and shipping whilst on passage in my ebook 'Voyage of the Little Ship Tere Moana' downloadable from my website

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