Attendees at this year’s Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show got the first in-person look at the latest leap forward in radar technology: Raymarine’s Cyclone line of open-array, solid-state CHIRP compression radars. The arrays can withstand winds above 115 mph, and the 13.2-inch height allows mounting in confined spaces.
The Cyclone array has an aerodynamic shape inspired by an airplane wing. The ability to withstand high winds isn’t just for bragging rights; some fishing boats with multiple outboards can reach speeds approaching 90 knots, which would likely be too much for a conventional open array, especially when running into the wind.
CHIRP technology transformed the newest generation of fishing electronics by sending multiple frequency signals instead of a single-frequency ping to yield underwater images with unparalleled resolution. Likewise, Cyclone uses CHIRP pulse compression and beam-sharpening technology to present images that are sharper and have more separation than previous technologies. High-speed, wide-band data sampling allows the receiver to track each pulse type and to deliver screen images that clearly define what is being represented. Those navigating at night or in dense fog will find less guesswork, as items such as docks, buoys and boats are clearly discernable.
Although you might assume that the power consumption of the solid-state Cyclone models would be less than Raymarine’s magnetron-based Magnum radars, they actually can be higher at times. Cyclone Pro models typically use 95 watts with a peak of 195 watts, compared with the Magnum Pro’s static consumption of 110 watts in transmit mode.
Anglers increasingly use open-array radar to locate birds (a sure sign of fish feeding at the surface), often beyond visual range, but many radar units’ automatic bird mode boosts the gain so high that screen clutter becomes an issue. A common misconception is that magnetron-based radars are superior for finding birds. However, a magnetron is a simple high-power oscillator that can only turn on and off many times a second, a technology that has its limitations.
Cyclone’s Bird Mode automatically uses complex pulse trains that combine pings of different pulse widths and CHIRP bandwidths to cut through the clutter. As a result, the operator sees crisp target separation that makes individual birds stand out, even when running.
Cyclone solid-state radars come in 3-, 4- or 6-foot arrays. Each can be ordered with 55 watts or 110 watts of power, which is equivalent to 6 kW or 12 kW magnetron-based radars. Although going with the lower power option saves $1,500, no matter the antenna size, it’s hard to imagine anyone getting a 6-foot array and choosing the less-capable power option. The 110-watt Pro version has a 95-nautical-mile range, which is 24 miles more than the 55-watt models. Cyclone radars have a rotation rate of up to 60 rpm to provide near real-time updating, but that can be slowed to as little as 12 rpm for less-dynamic situations.
A big differentiator is horizontal beam width. A wider beam illuminates a greater area, but a focused, narrow beam shows more detail. Horizontal beam width for the 110-watt Pro models is 1.32 degrees, compared with the 55-watt’s 1.98-degree beam. For comparison, Raymarine’s Quantum 2 Doppler radome’s horizontal beam width is 4.9 degrees.
Cyclone models have ARPA collision-avoidance (automatic radar plotting aid), which is often used by commercial vessels and the Coast Guard to track nearby traffic and deliver information such as course, bearing, heading, speed and closest point of approach. Most recreational radars use a simplified version called MARPA (mini-automatic radar plotting aid), which usually requires the operator to manually select a target to track. The number of targets is usually limited to 10. Raymarine’s Cyclone series can automatically track up to 50 ARPA targets simultaneously.
A Doppler function allows targets to be color-coded based on their potential threat, helping skippers stay safe in crowded waterways. RangeFusion technology merges short-pulse, near-target ranges with long-pulse, distant target ranges, providing a single, easy-to-interpret radar image.
Raymarine Cyclone radars will be available to consumers starting in November at $7,000 to $9,750.
Garmin Introduces Two Solid-State Dome Radars
Also at this year’s Fort Lauderdale show, Garmin unveiled the GMR Fantom 18x and GMR Fantom 24x dome radars, which have a category-leading output of 50 watts — more than double the usual output of similar closed-array radars.
The enhanced power output creates about a 20-percent gain in detection range and improves short-range detection of smaller targets. According to Garmin, the operator can see targets as close as 20 feet to as far as 48 miles.
The solid-state radars have MotionScope technology, which uses the Doppler effect to track and color-code nearby boat traffic, helping to avoid potential collisions. With the dual-range function enabled, the display simultaneously shows near- and far-range targets. And with a rotational rate of up to 60 rpm, the Garmin display’s screen is refreshed in near real-time.
The 18-inch GMR Fantom 18x and 24-inch GMR Fantom 24x will be offered in white or black. Look for them in November with suggested priceing from $2,200 to $3,100.
This article was originally published in the December 2021 issue.