Marine Digital Radar Rules

Increased accuracy, range and detail are all now available in digital radar, which requires little or no warm-up time and demands far less power

August 31, 2015

Digital Radar Rules

Increased accuracy, range and detail are all now available in digital radar, which requires little or no warm-up time and demands far less power.

Simrad Halo Radar

Simrad Yachting has been an early leader in what it calls broadband radar. First-generation models defined as 3G were followed by a 4G system with refined firmware, boasting even greater target discrimination and power. Still, these models can’t spot birds and won’t reach out to distances desired by ­seagoing vessels. Enter Halo: Simrad’s latest entry into the marketplace brings quick start-ups, long-range targeting, bird-hunting capability and noteworthy target discrimination. Halo offers the close-target advantage of broadband radar but adds the long-range power of traditional radar. It powers up in 20 seconds or so and can transmit instantly from standby. With its dual-beam technology, it can function as two radars and display both radar profiles on a split screen. It gives boaters the nearby target separation for enhanced navigation and safety, plus the long-range power. The user can set custom profiles for quick access to settings needed for hunting birds, navigating long channels or even traversing harbors. The digital radar is safe even for people inside the circle of the array, its digital signal. The 12- to 24-volt system is available in 3-, 4- and 6-foot arrays, and interfaces with NSS evo2 and NSO evo2 displays.

Raymarine Super HD Color

A big part of what happens in radar ­happens after the signal is sent and received. Digital processing in Raymarine’s Super HD Color gives an added layer of target discrimination, making it easy to visually track signals. A protocol called mini automatic radar plotting aid (MARPA) allows you to identify a vessel; its speed, bearing and closest point of approach; and time to closest point of approach. It will overlay automatic identification ­system (AIS) information as well. A special processing protocol gives the Super HD Color system an advantage in rain. It works by automatically filtering rain clutter, revealing ­targets otherwise invisible within the weather. The 4 kw radars come in 52- and 76-inch arrays. They are easily mounted thanks to waterproof exterior connections; you don’t need to open the housing. Each can be fully updated as processing firmware improves.

Furuno UHD Radar Arrays

Furuno Ultra High Definition (UHD) radar can also function as two radars at once. Furuno calls it simultaneous scanning technology, and it can give two separate displays from the same array. Each display can be separately adjusted for gain and clutter, giving users optimum clarity. The UHD radars come in 2 kw and 4 kw radomes, and 4 kw and 6 kw open arrays. Powered separately from displays, they can also connect directly to and power a digital compass, wind-speed indicator and GPS antenna. Automatic gain and sea-clutter controls give crystal clarity without constant operator attention.
Furuno 1st Watch Radar

Furuno 1st Watch Radar

Furuno has made a strong push to offer smartphone and tablet access to its systems, creating a new radar called 1st Watch. This radar connects ­wirelessly to any iOS device, phone or tablet, even both simultaneously, to give a portable display for its 4 kw radar. The app is free, and it gives complete control of the system, allowing sea-clutter and gain adjustments. Due to its portability, skipper and mate can keep an eye on the seas from anywhere on board. Courtesy Furuno

Digital radars, defined by terms such as broadband or high ­definition, have been coming along for more than five years. They power up almost instantly and offer target resolution often capable of reflecting a floating coconut, and when accidentally left on in the marina, do so without endangering people nearby.

But in early models, there was a downside too. Namely, they had shorter range — usually less than 25 miles — and their signal was a high-frequency pulse that couldn’t consistently reflect bird activity, a real disadvantage to sport-fishers. Newer models can both discriminate between a boat and its nearby tender, and reach out and ping birds dozens of miles out there to let a guy know where to start hunting.

Editor’s note: While Garmin is notably absent from this piece, rumors indicate new product announcements might take place at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show in November.


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