FMCW Radar

Simrad Yachting Launches Broadband 3G Radar

Simrad Yachting's New Broadband 3G Radar

Simrad Yachting's New Broadband 3G Radar

Simrad Yachting this week announced a significant upgrade to its “”broadband” radar capability with the “Broadband 3G Radar,” which increases the range of its not-so-old BR24 Broadband Radar.  I wrote about the BR24 when it was demonstrated at the Miami show last year and decided it was the real deal for short-range, high-definition radar detection.  At the time I thought it would make the perfect second radar unit for a typical trawler owner, who would probably have a high-power, open-array unit for long-range detection and surveillance.

Simrad's New 3G at Left, and BR24 at Right - Click for Larger View

Simrad's New 3G at Left, and BR24 at Right

As you can see in the photo above, at a 6 NM range, the new Broadband 3G has much better detection but appears to maintain the same level of high-definition target discrimination, compared side-by-side with the “old” BR24.  Although the folks who develop and program this technology really could be rocket scientists, the latest improvements derive mostly from a doubled RF transmit power.  You might recall that one of the really nice features of the BR24 was its incredibly low RF output, which meant that antenna placement wasn’t really critical anymore in terms of radiation safety.  Well, upping the power by a factor of two for the Broadband 3G really doesn’t change that; it’s still less than 1/10th the energy of a mobile phone, and 1/20,000th the energy of a traditional pulse radar.

Another really cool feature of this FMCW (Frequency Modulated Continuous Wave) radar is it’s incredible near-field detection capability.  Objects as close as 2 meters can be detected and displayed.  Ben Ellison noted that a demonstration unit he saw at a Navico press event last month clearly displayed someone walking toward the bow of the boat he was on.

Simrad Yachting says the unit will have a suggested retail price of $1,699 when it is available in June from authorized dealers and distributors in the United States and Canada.  And here is a copy of the press release issued this week.

Copyright © 2011 by OceanLines LLC.  All rights reserved.

Posted by Tom in Cruising Under Power, Cruising Under Sail, Electronics, Technology

New Radar from Navico is Game-Changer

Navico Broadband Radars for Three Brands

Navico Broadband Radars for Three Brands

I know, you hear that all the time from marketing types, but I’ve had a chance now to examine the new broadband radar from Navico — which will be on sale in Q2 under the Lowrance, Simrad and Northstar brands — and it really will change how you use radar.

These new units from Navico employ a Frequency-Modulated Continuous Wave (FMCW) transmitter that allows several major enhancements for the user.  This is the first time FMCW radar has been used for recreational marine use.  Here are a couple of highlights:

No “main bang” — the “main bang” is the clutter in the center of the screen that you typically see on the screen of a normal pulse radar.  It usually obliterates any close-in targets, often for as much as 30 meters or more from the boat outward.  When you think about it, that’s a serious detriment, since you’re not going to hit anything outside that zone. 

Navico Broadband Radar Image at 1/16th Mile

Navico Broadband Radar Image at 1/16th Mile

 The new radar from Navico virtually eliminates the main bang, distinguishing targets as close as 3meters.  Add to that the high-resolution enabled by the narrow beam and the digital signal processing and you can now safely navigate that narrow channel through the breakwater, or up the creek while seeing every piling, crab pot and bouy on the way.  Ok, maybe not every single one, but quite possibly.

Antenna of the new Navico Broadband Radars

Antenna of the new Navico Broadband Radars

Low power requirement — This FMCW radar requires much less power to operate.  The typical power draw in operation is only 17 watts, with only 1.6 watts required during standby.  That should be good news for all, but is especially good news for sailboat passagemakers on a strict electrical budget.

“Perfect” radiation safety — I say “perfect” because the certified “safe distance” from the radome while transmitting is “zero” meters.  This unit transmits the equivalent power of 1/10 of a typical cell phone.  That makes it a “huggable radar” as Navico President and CEO  Jens-Thomas Pietralla, said during a meeting here in Miami.  But it’s much more important than that.  With such an extremely low level of radiation, mounting concerns have all gone away and it is now safe to mount your radar anywhere it works for you without worrying about irradiating your crew and guests.  Not enough boaters are actually aware of this hazard with traditional radars, but they should be; and now they can take care of it.

“Plug and Play” — Since parent Navico has three prominent marine electronics brands, you will be able to plug this radar, and its single cable right into your Simrad, Lowrance or Northstar chartplotter with perfect integration.  The prices announced by Navico appear to be competitive, too.  For example, the Northstar-branded unit, compatible with the Northstar 8000i touch screen, M84 and M121 multifunction displays, has an MSRP of $1,995.00.

As a passagemaker, or coastal or offshore cruiser, you might wonder if this 18-inch radome unit will replace your bigger, high-power open array radar for your primary unit.  I wouldn’t rule it out, but I don’t think so.  While fishermen use their big open arrays to look for birds feeding on bait fish miles away, we use our high-power radar units for storm watching and long-distance surveillance and mapping.  At a rated range of 24 nautical miles, the new Navico broadband radar probably won’t fill those needs.  But as a secondary radar, and used in a primary role for close-in navigation, I think it becomes indispensable.

Copyright © 2009 OceanLines LLC

Posted by Tom in Technology