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Broadband Radar: A Quantum Leap Forward

Mariners have always needed to know the quickest and safest route between where they are and where they want to be - and what obstacles might be encountered on the way.

by Kevin Poulter

Radar systems, first used during WWII, are commonplace on larger, ocean-going vessels but for quite a number of reasons – cost being a major one but also the inherent danger of traditional radar signals – they haven’t been found on too many smaller craft.

With the exception of tall-masted vessels, keeping boat users and radar signals separated isn’t easy!

The electronics age has revolutionised small boat use with accurate positioning guaranteed, collision avoidance systems, depth sounders, world-wide radio contact, AIS and much more.

But now there’s a new player in the game: Broadband Radar, which promises to revolutionise navigation for vessels of all sizes – at a price that is significantly lower, bringing it into the range of the casual yachtsman or recreational fishing boat owner.

Click for larger image
Inside the Navico Broadband Radar radome, along with the electronics which drives it. There is no physical connection between the transmit/receive antennas (at top) and the drive system - spinning toroids induce power and data is fed via an IR link.

Not only that, it’s dramatically safer to use than existing (pulse) radar systems.

Broadband Radar utilises technology similar to that used in military and IMO-certified radar applications – unlike anything else on the recreational marine market.

Designed from the ground up, Broadband Radar is not an improvement on old designs, rather its a completely new design.

Consumer FMCW (Frequency-Modulated Continuous Wave) Broadband Radar technology was introduced during 2009. It came after more than five years of intensive research, development and testing, even when one manufacturer ‘threw in the towel’ as too hard/too expensive.

It was developed by Navico, the world’s largest marine electronics company, which has five leading marine electronics brands: B&G, Eagle, Lowrance, Northstar and Simrad. Broadband Radar is available in three of their brands: Northstar, Lowrance and Simrad.

Broadband Radar systems clearly differentiate between docks, channel markers, pilings, moored vessels and other important targets.

Target resolution is from <10m up to 13km (7 nautical miles), depending on the size of the object.

Click for larger image
This comparison of Broadband vs Pulse radar shows a line of mooring poles. In the Broadband image (left) there's a boat moored between the fourth and fifth poles - a fact completely missed by the pulse radar. In fact, it's having a hard time differentiating the poles! Just as important is the "blind spot" immediately around the pulse radar, masking close craft.

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