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Best autopilots for 2018
7/30/2018

 

Like just about all onboard electronics, autopilot technology has come a long way in recent years. Today’s pilots are smart---they can learn steering responses automatically and improve their performance---and often don’t require rudder feedback. They’re more accurate and intuitive and have become must-have equipment for many boaters. But they have to be set up properly to deliver top performance. Here’s an excerpt from an article Marine Electronics Journal (MEJ) ran earlier this year. Click HERE to read the entire piece.

"A basic autopilot includes a compass and a rudder sensor. When turned on and engaged, the pilot tries to keep the heading steady as she goes. When the boat wanders off course, a heading error is generated and then corrected by applying rudder opposite the heading error. Once the error is eliminated and the boat is back on course, counter rudder is applied to stop the turn. This most basic pilot function requires an accurate and responsive compass and rudder sensor. Calibration of the rudder sensor, setting limits and center are normally required. Compass calibration to compensate for deviations is also usually required. The physical planning of the installation can make all the difference. Perfect geometry on the rudder sensor, good compass location—these things matter. Poorly installed equipment may appear to work, but will not perform in adverse conditions."

This week we continue to tell you about the top electronics on the market in 17 categories­, ranging from AIS and fishfinders to vessel monitoring systems and wireless devices. MEJ does this exercise every year as part of the Buyers’ Guide. It works like this: We ask manufacturers to identify the one model they produce in a particular category that they consider to be the Best & Brightest—not necessarily the most technically advanced or newest but rather the one they rate highest in the product line for one reason or another. Could be the functions and features it offers, or maybe it breaks new ground in maximizing effectiveness or utility, or maybe it’s the most popular as measured by sales to boaters.

Last week we rolled out the MFDs---multi-function displays. This week it’s autopilots.

 

Simrad AP48

The Simrad AP48 autopilot combines the same intuitive interface of the compact AP44 with a larger rotary control dial, dedicated “dodge” keys, and other extended keypad controls. The AP48’s rotary dial provides precise steering control, while dodge keys enable instant heading changes in one-degree or 10-degree increments. Designed for optimal control in all conditions, the AP48’s large buttons are ideal for use with wet or gloved hands. To ensure optimal visibility in all conditions, the AP48’s full-color LCD panel is optically bonded to its protective glass covering, eliminating the possibility of condensation or fogging within the display. Transflective LCD technology makes use of reflected sunlight to brighten rather than obscure the screen, delivering superior day-time visibility and lower power consumption compared to traditional backlit displays.

 




SI-TEX SP-110C

The new SI-TEX SP-110C color autopilot is appropriate for a variety of boats up to about 38 feet. While maintaining the same compact footprint as the original SP-110, the SP-110C gives boaters a bright, full-color LCD display that can be easily viewed from a variety of different angles on open or enclosed helm stations. This new display also provides navigators with a range of useful new graphic presentations, including a Rudder Angle Meter and Compass Steering Display. The SP-110C comes paired with SI-TEX’s powerful new nine-axis electronic compass for precise course detection and steering control. Virtual Rudder Feedback eliminates the need for a separate rudder feedback unit and junction box—resulting in a simpler, easier to install and more affordable autopilot system.

 




Raymarine Evolution EV150

As the newest member of the award-winning Evolution Autopilot line, the Raymarine EV150 Hydraulic Autopilot System is engineered specifically to meet the needs of small- to medium-sized hydraulically steered vessels with a steering ram capacity between 4.9 cu. in. (80 cc) and 14.0 cu in. (230 cc). The system is for 12-volt DC electrical systems only. The EV150 system features all the same Evolution series features that demanding boaters have come to know and appreciate including simple setup and fully automatic calibration. Like its siblings, the EV150 features Evolution TrackIQ algorithms for tighter track-keeping and faster track acquisition. Raymarine’s patented Hydro-Balance technology automatically compensates for deficiencies in the boat’s hydraulics and adjusts automatically for asymmetrical loads caused by propeller walk and unbalanced steering rams.

 

Garmin GHP Reactor 40

Garmin’s GHP Reactor 40 hydraulic autopilot keeps you on course at cruising speeds, minimizes heading error, reduces power consumption and more, so you can be more comfortable while cruising. Solid-state nine-axis Attitude Heading Reference System (AHRS) sensors provide reliable vessel control in all sea and weather conditions and consistent heading accuracy within 2 degrees. Flexible mounting options and quick, easy commissioning make installation simpler. The GHP Reactor 40 has a SmartPump that fits most hydraulically steered boating applications, and its brushless motor drive eliminates the risk of rudder “hard over.” Its patented Shadow Drive technology automatically disengages the autopilot if you take the helm and re-engages when you hold a steady course. No rudder feedback required.





Furuno NavPilot 300

Furuno’s NavPilot 300 is perfect for center consoles with outboards or drive-by-wire systems on small- to mid-sized boats. It features a single-DIN, 4.1 inch color LCD and a new Gesture Controller. The Gesture Controller allows you to simply point and shoot in any direction, controlling your vessel’s steering from anywhere onboard within 10 meters of the helm. Using the Gesture Controller, simply push the button, point to the desired heading, and release the button to let the autopilot redirect the boat—true point-and-click steering, from anywhere on the boat. It also includes Furuno’s unique “Sabiki” Mode, which controls the outboards while you are drifting astern, letting you focus on fishing, jigging for bait, or keeping your position while waiting for a drawbridge to open, instead of steering.

 




Coursemaster CM95

More power and even greater course accuracy from the new Coursemaster CM95 autopilot from Australian autopilot specialist, Coursemaster Autopilots. The simplified auto setup and self-learning software on this new Coursemaster allow for quick and easy operation of all the necessary features for short-handed sailing or cruising. Coursemaster Autopilots’ commitment to specialize in innovative autopilot technology for over 40 years results in the new CM95, offering key features including course trim keys, GPS and wind interface, and the flexibility of drive options such as linear, hydraulic, rotary and solenoid. The CM95 is suitable for both sail and power from 30 to 100 feet.

 



ComNav P4

Featuring a large 5.7 inch display, the ComNav P4 autopilot was built for effortless operation and intuitive control with easily accessible, customizable parameters for commercial fleets, fishing boats, yachts, and tugs. The P4 is equipped with ComNav’s legendary Intelligent Steering Technology or IST. The autopilot learns steering responses automatically and continually improves its performance as it completes its route. The P4 has automatic sea state adjustment for reliable course holding in all weather conditions. With proportional rate control, the innovative unit supplies a gentle and smooth response at fast cruising speeds. The ComNav P4 provides precise track steering with NAV Mode and a new adaptive towing feature. It has a number of pre-set turns and adjustments can be made on the fly, port and starboard dodge buttons help avoid collisions.

 


B&G Triton 2

The B&G Triton 2 is a smart, multi-purpose instrument featuring a full-color display and modern glass helm styling. The display, paired with a Triton2 Pilot Controller keypad, is a fully functional control head for compatible B&G autopilot systems. Delivering clear digital instruments and intuitive on-screen menus, the Triton 2 is designed for use in all conditions. Views of wind data, speed, depth, engine data, autopilot status and more are available at a glance. The LCD panel is optically bonded to its protective glass covering, eliminating the possibility of condensation or fogging within the display. Integrating brilliantly with B&G multifunction displays and glass helm systems, the Triton 2 can also function as a standalone instrument display and autopilot controller aboard smaller vessels.

 

 


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