generation and no doubt with more developments on the way. Then there are other systems, such as Raymarine’s Quantum and Garmin’s GMR Fantom, which are both considered “solid-state” systems and use lower power levels to provide close-range performance. Furuno’s X-Class radar uses a 3-gigahertz frequency to provide excellent targeting at both short and long ranges.
“It depends on application,” says Mark Harnett, radar product manager for Simrad. “The newer pulse-compression open-arrays like Simrad’s Halo deliver near-10-kilowatt performance for long-range punch, with the advantages of immediate-range performance, too. So this system covers navigation and bird spotting.” One may not need that range all the time, but it’s good to have the capability.
Now all of that said, we at Power & Motoryacht absolutely recommend that you treat radar with the same respect you always have and give this powerful system the wide berth it deserves. But rest assured, you’re not exposing your family to any dangerous radiation levels simply by using a revolutionary navigation tool, provided you install it and use it according to manufacturers’ specifications.
There are some things to think about when working with your installer. Basically you want the radar to be mounted above head height and over the highest point where you and your crew spend time on your boat. This is to make the most of the radar’s 25-degree vertical beam width (basically it shoots its signal 12½ degrees above and below horizontal). Mounting it up high means improved performance over the longest range possible. After all, it’s line-of-sight technology.
“In those instances where you can’t mount them high enough, we have a safety system built-in,” says David Dunn, director of marine sales at Garmin. “We have No Transmit zones, and you can set it so the radar will not transmit a signal in that section.” Many systems offer this peace-of-mind feature, including those from Garmin and Furuno. You get a less-than-full picture of what’s around you, but the signal shooting through all those bodies, seats, and equipment probably would yield less-than-perfect results anyway.
Explain to your electronics installer how and when you use your radar, and he will have a better idea about how to mount it most effectively. “The running angle of any boat on plane versus off plane can make a huge difference in radar performance,” McGowan says. “The mounting position needs to take all that into account.”
Lower-power units can benefit from a lower mounting position, reducing sea clutter and improving minimum range. Larger radar systems use narrower beamwidth to overcome these challenges and deliver farreaching performance.
“In terms of operating the radar, doing so at shorter instrumented range is generally safer for magnetron pulse and pulse compression radars,” Harnett says. “So, to reduce radiation, and also interference with other radars, operate the radar only at as long a range as you currently need. In dual-range mode this means the longer of the two ranges.”
And if you want to be really safe, stay away from that microwave oven in the galley while your burrito heats up.