You’ve found many an article here on #Radar (and #RadarBlinded) where we explained the virtues and increasing cost-effectiveness of radar.  While a lot of enhancements have been made over the years, they have largely fallen into two categories – tracking boogies to avoid collisions at sea and tuning out the effects of weather.  But, like with our TVs, High Definition (“high-def”) has come to radar and nothing will be the same.  A new “arms race” between radar manufacturers has begun and safety of life at sea will be beneficiary.  This column is about that.

What’s So Bad About What We Have?

Really, only two things.  First, even the best radar systems have difficulty is differentiating close objects from each other.  This can be true, for example, for a tug and its tow.  Secondly, in close quarters, it can be deceptively assuring – when assurance is not at hand. 

High Def” Means What?

Happily for boaters, high-def means better, not worse.  Instead of a smudge of radar return signals implying that the Queen Mary is anchored down range, you’ll be able to count the boats swinging at anchor, or drift fishing, within feet of each other. 

High-def is all about resolution.  And better resolution leads to better problem resolution, and sooner… and that means better safety of life at sea…

What’s Available

Well, like TV in the early days of the high-def revolution, not everyone has the technology and, for those that do, not all their gear is “plug-compatible.”  Raymarine’s latest – the G Series – is the state of the art in high-def radar.  And their prior state-of-the-art E Series can be retrofitted through firmware (specialized software) to receive and process the high-def signal.  But the C Series is out of luck.  Remember that 3 years ago, the C Series was the state of the art… that’s how fast this is moving…

Who else is out there with high-def?  Furuno, as long as you are running their NavNet 3D system; Northstar, Simrad and Lowrance are also geared up for high-def.

As you would imagine, mounting the radome/scanner is now especially important.  Recall again from last week’s article that as the boat pitches, the radar “beam” can shoot down into the water or off into outer space… Some installers argue that this means that a scanner should be mounted on a gimbal that keeps the radar true to the horizon…  makes sense to me but that means a specialized mount that we’ve yet to find for powered boats…  So, just be aware, especially in heavy seas, that you are getting a picture that is sweeping from the depths of the water to the heights of the sky…