Boaters have been able to enjoy all kinds of technological advancements in the past few years and some of the most obvious have been in marine electronics. Chart plotters have become faster and more accurate with far better charts then ever before and fish finders are able to define structure and fish with startling imagery. Until recently radar development was lackluster in comparison. All that changed with the introduction of solid-state radars. Manufacturers such as the Simrad Halo range of radars and Raymarine’s Quantum radars are changing the face of radar technology for the average recreational boaters and are bringing them into the next generation.
Utilizing military type technology only recently seen in commercial use, Navico, under the Simrad banner has developed a new open array radar system that works in conjunction with its NSS Evo2 and NSO Evo2 displays, with capabilities unlike anything in its history and at prices not seen for this technology, thanks in part to technology that is now also being used by the 4G cellular network. It has done away with power hungry, fixed frequency limited life magnetrons and replaced them with a solid state amplifier that has far more versatility. By combining features found in traditional radars – and already available and capable broadband radars –
…the new pulse compression technology that transmits ‘25W pulsed, frequency-swept transmission bursts’ allows for a radar that uses less power, has great image capability with low electromagnetic and radiation emissions, and enjoys instant start-up.
Other features of these new open array radars include a 64 nautical mile range with a four-foot antenna, as well as instant on operation, true dual range operation, high power capability with low power consumption at 12 and 24 volts, Ethernet connectivity and custom modes, along with features called Beam Sharpening and Target Separation Control. It even has a trendy adjustable blue LED accent light letting everyone know you have a hot new radar on board.
The benefits of these new Pulse compression radars are plentiful and evidence of this is easy to find. Doing a YouTube search online will produce videos of impressive close-in radar returns, such as one clearly showing mooring buoys or channel markers passing just feet from the boat, allowing for confident nighttime helming in close harbor quarters.
Simrad’s website specifies a 20-foot minimum range but online videos and real life application prove returns even closer than that.
Combine this close quarters capability with a true dual range operation and you can watch for mooring buoys on one side of your screen while scanning long range for weather cells and more.
You can do so with completely independent controls, setting each of the two range screens as you wish. If you are prone to customize your radar image you are able to do so, but Halo also has some handy presets programmed for optimal performance for certain situations. These include a harbor, offshore, weather, bird and a custom mode. By selecting any of these modes the radar will automatically set itself for optimal performance for the range and targets desired. For the hands-on person the custom mode allows the user to tune the radar for any situation or condition to their liking.
Because of the solid-state electronics used the Halo radars are capable of fast initial power up ranging from 16 to 25 seconds and can transmit instantly from the standby mode. Gone are the days of waiting minutes for the radar to power on and warm up. These radars also boast a high-speed mode with up to 48RPM for fast, responsive position updates. When in a bird mode the array will automatically slow down to allow for better target definition. Another advantage of this new technology, due to its low power pulse transmission, is a low electromagnetic emission which allows for safe operation in anchorages and in your slip at the marina.
If you are in need of a dome radar utilizing this new CHIRP pulse compression technology you may want to consider Raymarine’s new Quantum dome. Using similar technology as that found in Halo these domes work in conjunction with any Raymarine multifunction displays running their LightHouse II operating system. Boasting low power consumption of just 17 watts of transmission and seven watts in standby, these domes are easy on battery consumption and make a viable radar for long range cruisers looking for power efficient electronics. With excellent near and distant radar detection this dome offers simplified installation with WiFi integration, and Raymarine even offers adapters so that new radar cables may not be required.
These new radars are some of the first on the block utilizing new technology that can produce incredibly detailed radar images in ways not seen before and at a price that puts them within reach of boaters everywhere – the next generation radar is here.
Glenn Hayes is a freelance photographer and writer living in West Central Florida. Specializing in marine and location photography, his work covers commercial, editorial and fine art work. www.HayesStudios.com