Jens-Thomas Pietralla

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