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Radar and ARPA Manual: Radar, AIS and Target Tracking for Marine Radar Users
Radar and ARPA Manual: Radar, AIS and Target Tracking for Marine Radar Users
Radar and ARPA Manual: Radar, AIS and Target Tracking for Marine Radar Users
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Radar and ARPA Manual: Radar, AIS and Target Tracking for Marine Radar Users

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This fully revised new edition covers the complete radar/ARPA installation and serves as the most comprehensive and up-to-date reference on equipment and techniques for radar observers using older and newer systems alike. Suitable for use as a professional reference or as a training text, the book covers all aspects of radar, ARPA and integrated bridge systems technology (including AIS, ECDIS and GNSS) and their role in shipboard operations. It is a valuable resource for larger vessels and also covers the needs of leisure and amateur sailors for whom this technology is now accessible.

Radar and ARPA Manual provides essential information for professional mariners, including those on training courses for electronic navigation systems and professional certificates internationally. Reference is made throughout to IMO (International Maritime Organization) Performance Standards, the role of radar in navigation and in collision avoidance, and to international professional and amateur marine operations qualifications.

  • The most up-to-date book available, with comprehensive treatment of modern radar and ARPA systems and ECDIS (Electronic Chart Display & Information Systems)
  • Full coverage of IMO performance standards relating to radar and navigational technology on new and established vessels
  • Covers best practice use of equipment as well as underlying principles, with essential mathematics and complicated concepts illustrated through the use of clear illustrations
Release dateNov 20, 2013
Radar and ARPA Manual: Radar, AIS and Target Tracking for Marine Radar Users
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A G Bole

After 10 years at sea, Alan Bole qualified as Extra Master Mariner. In 1965, he was appointed Lecturer in Charge of the Radar School at the Liverpool Regional College of Technology. In 1973, Alan was appointed Principal Lecturer in Radar Simulation at the now Liverpool Polytechnic, and in 1979 he was elected a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Navigation and a Fellow of the Nautical Institute. Since his retirement in 1988, Alan has been focussing on consultancies pertaining to Radar, Navigation and Simulation Worldwide. He also supervises degrees to PhD level through Liverpool John Moore’s University. He is a Royal Yachting Association Yachtmaster and Examiner to all levels including ‘Ocean’, and a Co-author of a number of nautical books and publications.

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    Radar and ARPA Manual - A G Bole

    Radar and ARPA Manual

    Radar, AIS and Target Tracking for Marine Radar Users

    Third Edition

    Alan Bole

    Radar/ARPA nautical consultant and former Principal Lecturer in Navigation Systems at Liverpool John Moores University, UK

    Alan Wall

    Head of Nautical Science and Co-director of Liverpool Logistics Offshore & Marine Research Institute, Liverpool John Moores University, UK

    Andy Norris

    Maritime Consultant and Honorary Professor for Navigation Technology, University of Nottingham, UK

    Table of Contents

    Cover image

    Title page



    Preface to the Third Edition


    Chapter 1. Basic Radar Principles

    1.1 Introduction

    1.2 Principles of Range and Bearing Measurement

    1.3 Principles of Bearing Measurement

    1.4 Display Modes

    1.5 Motion and Stabilization Modes

    Chapter 2. The Radar System – Technical Principles

    2.1 Introduction

    2.2 Basic Functionality

    2.3 The Radar Signal

    2.4 The Radar Transmitter

    2.5 Antenna Principles

    2.6 Radar Signal Reception and Processing

    2.7 Radar Processing Principles

    2.8 The Radar Display and User Controls

    2.9 Solid-State Radar Principles

    2.10 The Siting of Units on Board Ship

    Chapter 3. Target Detection

    3.1 Introduction

    3.2 Radar Characteristics

    3.3 Target Characteristics

    3.4 Target Enhancement – Passive

    3.5 Target Enhancement – Active

    3.6 The Detection of Targets in Sea Clutter

    3.7 The Detection of Targets in Precipitation Clutter

    3.8 The Radar Horizon

    3.9 False and Unwanted Radar Responses

    Chapter 4. Automatic Radar Target Tracking, Specified Facilities

    4.1 Introduction

    4.2 The Acquisition of Targets

    4.3 The Tracking of Targets

    4.4 Vectors

    4.5 The ARPA Display

    4.6 The Display of Alphanumeric Data

    4.7 Alarms and Warnings

    4.8 Automatic Ground-Stabilization

    4.9 Navigational Lines and Maps (See Also Section

    4.10 Target Simulation Facility

    4.11 The Predicted Point of Collision

    4.12 The Predicted Area of Danger (PAD)

    Chapter 5. Automatic Identification System (AIS)

    5.1 Organization of AIS Transmissions

    5.2 AIS Information Transmitted by a Class A Vessel

    5.3 AIS Messages and Types

    5.4 AIS Units and Bridge Displays

    5.5 AIS Usability

    5.6 Benefits of AIS to Shore Monitoring Stations

    5.7 Radar/ARPA and AIS Comparison for Collision Avoidance

    5.8 Other AIS Applications and Applications Associated with AIS

    Chapter 6. Operational Controls

    6.1 Use of Controls and Optimum Performance

    6.2 Setting Up the Radar Display

    6.3 Performance Monitoring

    6.4 Change of Range Scale and/or Pulse Length

    6.5 The Stand-by Condition

    6.6 Controls for Range and Bearing Measurement

    6.7 Controls for the Suppression of Unwanted Responses

    6.8 Echo Stretch

    6.9 Using an Automatic Radar Plotting Display

    6.10 AIS Operational Controls

    Chapter 7. Radar Plotting Including Collision Avoidance

    7.1 Introduction

    7.2 The Relative Plot

    7.3 The True Plot

    7.4 The Plot When Only the Target Manoeuvres

    7.5 The Plot When the Own ship Manoeuvres

    7.6 The Theory and Construction of PPCs, PADs, SODs and SOPs

    7.7 The Plot in Tide

    7.8 Manual Plotting – Accuracy and Errors

    7.9 Errors Associated with the True-Motion Presentation

    7.10 Radar Plotting Aids

    7.11 The Regulations for Preventing Collisions at Sea as Applied to Radar and ARPA

    7.12 Intelligent Knowledge-Based Systems as Applied to Collision Avoidance

    Chapter 8. Navigation Techniques Using Radar and ARPA

    8.1 Introduction

    8.2 Identification of Targets and Chart Comparison

    8.3 Position Fixing

    8.4 Parallel Indexing

    Chapter 9. ARPA – Accuracy and Errors

    9.1 Introduction

    9.2 The Accuracy of Displayed Data Required by the Performance Standard

    9.3 The Classification of ARPA Error Sources

    9.4 Errors that are Generated in the Radar Installation

    9.5 Errors in Displayed Data

    9.6 Errors of Interpretation

    Chapter 10. Ancillary Equipment

    10.1 Global Navigation Satellite Systems

    10.2 Electronic Charts (ECDIS)

    10.3 Integrated Systems

    10.4 Voyage Data Recorders (SEE ALSO SECTION 11.3.5)

    Chapter 11. Extracts from Official Publications

    11.1 Extracts from Regulation 19, Chapter V, Safety of Navigation, of IMO-SOLAS Convention

    11.2 IMO Performance Standards for Radar Equipment

    11.3 IMO Performance Standards for Other Related Equipment

    11.4 Extracts from UK Statutory Instrument 1993 No. 69, the Merchant Shipping (Navigational Equipment) Regulations 1993

    Glossary of Acronyms and Abbreviations



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    First edition 1990

    Paperback edition 1992

    Reprinted 1997, 1999 (twice), 2000, 2001, 2003

    Second edition 2005

    Reprinted 2006 (twice), 2007, 2008

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    This book and the individual contributions contained in it are protected under copyright by the Publisher (other than as may be noted herein).


    Knowledge and best practice in this field are constantly changing. As new research and experience broaden our understanding, changes in research methods or professional practices, may become necessary.

    Practitioners and researchers must always rely on their own experience and knowledge in evaluating and using any information or methods described herein. In using such information or methods they should be mindful of their own safety and the safety of others, including parties for whom they have a professional responsibility.

    To the fullest extent of the law, neither the Publisher nor the authors, contributors, or editors, assume any liability for any injury and/or damage to persons or property as a matter of products liability, negligence or otherwise, or from any use or operation of any methods, products, instructions, or ideas contained in the material herein.

    Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

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    Printed and bound in the UK

    14 15 16 17 18 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1


    To Bill and Keith

    Preface to the Third Edition

    Alan Bole

    Radar/ARPA nautical consultant and former Principal Lecturer in Navigation Systems at Liverpool John Moores University, UK

    Alan Wall

    Head of Nautical Science and Co-director of Liverpool Logistics Offshore & Marine Research Institute, Liverpool John Moores University, UK

    Andy Norris

    Maritime Consultant and Honorary Professor for Navigation Technology, University of Nottingham, UK

    There have been considerable advances in technology in recent years which has meant that a major revision has been necessary.

    In the past, much of the work of the navigator involved the correct use of the controls in setting up the display and the correct interpretation of the displayed data – in particular, radar plotting to determine risk of collision. These problems have been largely solved by the development of digital techniques which have allowed the data to be electronically processed resulting, among other facilities, in auto-clutter suppression and target tracking (ARPA).

    Unfortunately, the advances in technology have brought with them their own problems. The move from analogue to digital techniques has opened up considerable possibilities, in particular, to integrate the displayed outputs from what were independent instruments on to a common display monitor. This can give rise to information overload and/or display congestion if used indiscriminately.

    A common failing now is for operators not to input, update or regularly check the data being fed to the systems upon which the output depends (courses, speeds, ship’s data, etc.). As a result, for the navigator, the displayed data can be erroneous/misleading. The behaviour of an observer on another vessel will depend on the information being received (e.g. from AIS) and from information determined (e.g. from radar/ARPA). Serious confusion can arise when there are inconsistencies in what the instruments are telling the observer.

    In recent years, there have been considerable changes and increases in the technical specifications of all navigational equipment (although rarely retrospective), and also, the Carriage Requirements. These have, to a large extent, been taken into account in this treatment. Also, the basic ideas behind solid-state coherent radars have been included within Chapter 2, as these are being increasingly fitted to vessels.

    IMO and national advice on matters of safety and good practice is still included where applicable. The correct use of the equipment is paramount and it is in this area that we have continued to stress the importance of ‘good practice’ which has been built up over the years.

    Although small vessels and pleasure craft are not specifically required to carry this equipment, many of them do and in their interest; it is hoped that many aspects of the material covered here will prove of value for them.

    Some material relating to the development of radar has been retained in order to provide a background to understand where today’s equipment is coming from and to underpin the theory upon which present-day radars are based. Most of the descriptions which related to specific earlier equipment has been removed, in spite of the fact some of that equipment may still be in use today.

    Another significant change is that the latest IMO performance standards for radar on ships no longer refer to the term ARPA and instead use the term Target Tracker, as the equipment now has to integrate and present AIS (Automatic Identification System) data with radar tracked data. This new edition has therefore included a much larger discussion of AIS with the inclusion of the new Chapter 5. This trend away from independent to integrated equipment has meant that, for completeness, the inter-relationship between radar/ARPA, AIS, GPS and ECDIS has had to be included, but not to the same technical depth as the radar and ARPA.


    First edition

    The authors wish to express their gratitude to:

    The International Maritime Organization (IMO) for permission to reproduce the various extracts from resolutions adopted by the Assembly.

    The Controller of Her Majesty’s Stationery Office for permission to reproduce the extracts from M 1158 and Statutory Instrument No. 1203 (1984).

    Captain C. E. Nicholls of Liverpool Polytechnic for his major contribution to Chapter 8.

    Second edition

    We again express our thanks to IMO for permission to reproduce updated extracts from various resolutions adopted by the Assembly.

    In this edition we are grateful for the considerable assistance of June Bole and Alison Wall in proofreading the manuscript and for their help, support and encouragement in our completion of this book.

    Mr B. Price of Sandown College, Liverpool, for his helpful comments based on a reading of Chapter 2.

    Mr Andrew O. Dineley for his assistance in producing the computer printout of the manuscript.

    Families and friends without whose assistance, support and understanding, this undertaking would never have been completed.

    Third edition

    Mr Barry Wade of Kelvin Hughes for his helpful comments on Chapter 2.

    We again express our thanks to IMO for permission to reproduce updated extracts from various resolutions adopted by the Assembly.

    Chapter 1

    Basic Radar Principles

    Here, basic, physical principles are discussed, how they are applied, along with the equipment used to translate theses principles, i.e. timed echo response, and rotating beam into the traditional radar picture. Next, are the ways in which the picture may be orientated i.e. Head Up Display, North Up Display and the effects of changes in course. Then there are the ways in which the picture might be stabilised using course and speed inputs. Relative Motion and, True Motion obtained using a speed input are examined along with the data obtainable from ‘plotting’ The possible misconception which might arise from a failure to plot. The importance of accuracy of any data fed to the equipment either manually or automatically. The relationship between the Head Up Display and the visual scene. The relationship between the North Up Display and the conventional navigational Chart. The effects of altering course on both types of display


    Block diagram; Head up display; North up display; Course up display; Relative Motion; True Motion; Stabilisation; Orientation; Range; Bearing; Ground stabilised; Sea Stabilized; Radar Equation; Plotting; Trails; Yaw; Plan Position Indicator (PPI); Antenna

    1.1 Introduction

    Radar forms an important component of the navigational equipment fitted on virtually all vessels apart from the very smallest. Its display of critical information is easily assimilated by a trained user and has acted as a focus for the presentation of other navigational data, giving it a deserved prominence on the bridge of a vessel. It is poised to retain its central electronic navigational role into the foreseeable future, equalled only in display significance by the rather more recent development, the electronic chart. Together, they will provide the basis of the major displays for marine navigation into an increasingly integrated navigational world.

    The word RADAR is an acronym derived from the words Radio Detection and Ranging. The scientist Heinrich Hertz, after whom the basic unit of frequency is named, demonstrated in 1886 that radio waves could be reflected from metallic objects. In 1904 a German engineer, Christian Hülsmeyer, obtained a patent in several countries for a radio wave device capable of detecting ships, but it aroused little enthusiasm because of its very limited range. Marconi, delivering a lecture in 1922, drew attention to the work of Hertz and proposed in principle what we know today as marine radar. Although radar was used to determine the height of the ionosphere in the mid-1920s, it was not until 1935 that radar pulses were successfully used to detect and measure the range of an aircraft. In the 1930s there was much simultaneous but independent development of radar techniques in Britain, Germany, France and America. Radar first went to sea in a warship in 1937 and by 1939 considerable improvement in performance had been achieved. By 1944 naval radar had made an appearance on merchant ships and from about the end of the Second World War the growth of civil marine radar began. Progressively it was refined to meet the needs of peacetime navigation and collision avoidance.

    The civil marine radars in use today differ markedly from their ancestors of the 1940s in size, appearance and versatility, but the basic data that they offer, namely target range and bearing, are determined by exploiting the same fundamental principles unveiled so long ago. An understanding of such principles is an essential starting point in any study of marine radar, even though recent developments in the use of a technology known as coherent radar have somewhat complicated the picture. This latter technology is explained in some detail in Section 2.9, but first it is useful to gain an understanding of the basic principles behind radar.

    1.2 Principles of Range and Bearing Measurement

    1.2.1 The Echo Principle

    An object (normally referred to as a target) is detected by the transmission of radio energy as a pulse or otherwise, and the subsequent reception of a fraction of such energy (the echo) which is reflected by the target in the direction of the transmitter. The phenomenon is analogous to the reflection of sound waves from land formations and large buildings. Imagine somebody giving a short sharp shout through cupped hands to focus the sound energy. The sound wave travels outwards and some of it may strike, for example, a cliff. Some of the energy which is intercepted will be reflected by the cliff. If the reflected energy returns in the direction of the caller, and is of sufficient strength, it will be heard as an audible echo, resembling the original shout. In considering this analogy, the following points can usefully assist in gaining a preliminary understanding of pulse radar detection:

    A. The echo is never as loud as the original shout.

    B. The chance of detecting an echo depends on the loudness and duration of the shout.

    C. Short shouts are required if echoes from close targets are not to be drowned by the original shout.

    D. A sufficiently long interval between shouts is required to allow time for echoes from distant targets to return.

    E. It can be more effective to cup one’s hands over the mouth when shouting and put a hand to the ear when listening for the echo.

    Now considering radar, its basic building blocks are illustrated diagrammatically in Figure 1.1. The antenna is used both to transmit the signal and to receive its reflection. On transmit, the antenna is acting very much like the cupped hand, focussing the energy in a particular direction. On receive it is acting more like a hand to the ear, collecting more received energy from that direction. The transmitter has a similar role to that of the mouth and vocal chords of the shouter, and the radar receiver acts as the ear. The processor clarifies the received signal and judges its distance, perhaps somewhat similar to what a trained human brain can do in identifying and assessing a received sound wave. Finally the radar displays the information to a human operator, perhaps analogous to a human writing down the estimated range and direction of the object producing the echo.

    Figure 1.1 The basic radar system.

    The antenna of a marine radar rotates steadily in the horizontal plane giving a complete rotation about every 2 s. This means that radar pulses consecutively cover all directions over 360° at each rotation of the antenna. The speed of radio waves is so high, about one million times greater than sound waves, that the antenna receives all the reflected energy from a particular transmitted pulse before it has appreciably rotated.

    1.2.2 Range as a Function of Time

    It is self-evident that the time which elapses between the transmission of a pulse and the reception of the corresponding echo depends on the speed of the pulse and the distance which it has travelled in making its two-way journey. If the speed of the pulse is known and the elapsed time can be measured, the range of the target producing the echo can be calculated.

    The velocity of radio waves is dependent on the nature of the medium through which they travel. In fact, within the Earth’s atmosphere it is hardly different to that within a space-type vacuum, that is 299,792,458 m/s. In our own minds this is easiest to be considered to be almost precisely 300,000,000 (three hundred million) metres per second, or as 300 metres per microsecond (µs), where 1 µs represents one millionth part of a second (i.e. 10−6 s). Using this value it is possible to produce a simple general relationship between target range and the elapsed time which separates the transmission of the pulse and the reception of an echo in any particular case (Figure 1.2).

    Figure 1.2 The echo principle.

    Let D=the distance travelled by the pulse to and from the target (metres)

    R=the range of the target (m)

    T=the elapsed time (µs)

    S=the speed of radio waves (m/µs)

    Then D=S×T

    and R=(S×T)/2

    hence R=(300×T)/2

    thus R=150T

    The application of this relationship can be illustrated by the following example.

    Example 1.1

    Calculate the elapsed time for a pulse to travel to and return from a radar target whose range is (a) 40 m (b) 12 nautical miles (NM).

    a. R=150T

    thus 40=150T

    hence T=40/150≈0.27µs

    This value is of particular interest because 40 m represents the minimum detection range that must be achieved to ensure compliance with IMO Performance Standards for Radar Equipment (see Section 11.2.1). While this topic will be fully explored in Section 3.2.4, it is useful at this stage to note the extremely short time interval within which transmission and reception must be accomplished.

    b. R=150T

    Since 1 NM=1852 m,


    hence T=12×1852/150=148.16 µs

    This result is noteworthy as it represents the elapsed time for a commonly used marine radar range scale. The elapsed times established in this section are of the order of millionths of a second and therefore need special instrumentation to be able to measure them accurately. In the early days of radar this was cutting-edge technology, but with the advent of quartz timing technology, and fast microelectronics it is no longer a major issue. Such technology is low cost, accurate and ubiquitous, with most humans owning multiple examples of precision timing in their watches, mobile phones, computers, TVs and cars.

    1.2.3 Directional Transmission and Reception

    In a marine radar system it is cost and space effective to use a single antenna for both transmission and reception. It is designed in such a way (see Section 2.5) as to focus the transmitted energy into a beam which is very narrow in the horizontal plane. The angle within which the energy is constrained is called the horizontal beamwidth (Figure 1.3). It must have a value of not more than 2.0° if it is to comply with the international regulations which govern marine radar. Civil marine radars for large ships are available with horizontal beamwidths as narrow as 0.75°. The equivalent reception property of the antenna is such that it will detect energy which has returned from within the angular limits of the horizontal beamwidth; that is from those targets that have been illuminated by the corresponding radar transmission. Its insensitivity to picking up unwanted noise from other directions effectively increases its ability to detect the reflected echoes.

    Figure 1.3 The horizontal beam width.

    An essential feature of a marine radar is that it should provide continuous coverage over the full 360° of azimuth angle. To achieve this the antenna has to rotate and no part of the vessel should obscure the radar beam, such as masts and other superstructure. Typical antenna rotation rates are 24–45 revolutions per minute, resulting in a complete rotation occurring every 1.3–2.5 s, depending on the system.

    The interval between successive transmitted pulses has to at least allow the transmitted signal to travel out to the furthest target of interest and back again, although there are other considerations, which are discussed in Section This interval is normally considered as a pulse repetition frequency (PRF), that is the number of pulses transmitted in 1 s. If we take, as an example, a value of 1500 pulses per second (1500 Hz); this is equivalent to one pulse every 667 µs. Taking a representative time for one revolution of the scanner to be 2 s, it is seen that 3000 pulses are transmitted during one revolution and that the scanner rotates through 0.12° between pulses. The picture is thus ‘built up’ of approximately 3000 radial lines of reflected echoes.

    1.2.4 Display of Radar Information The A-Scan Display

    The A-scan is a useful concept to help understand the makeup of a reflected radar signal and how it can be displayed. This basic type of display is sometimes used today by engineers and technicians for special purposes, but is not a display that is available on a marine radar when used as a navigational aid. An A-scan display plots the returned radar signal as a graph, see Figure 1.4. The horizontal axis represents time and the vertical axis represents the strength (amplitude) of the received signal. The plot, sometimes called a trace, commences at the instant each radar pulse is transmitted. This event is indicated by a vertical spike, known as the transmission mark. Returning echoes also generate spikes in the plot. The amplitude of these spikes are related to the strength of the echo. The equivalent ‘real-life’ situation is also shown in the diagram.

    Figure 1.4 The A-scan display.

    The horizontal distance between the transmission mark and an echo spike is a measure of the range of the target. Using the result from Example 1.1(b), it is evident that if the full extent of the plot is to represent a range of 12 NM (the selected range scale) this is equivalent to a timescale of approximately 148 µs. The Plan Position Indicator Display

    The A-scan shows the amplitude of the reflected radar energy as a function of range at a particular azimuth bearing angle of the radar antenna. In principle, this angle could be shown in degrees as an information box on the display, allowing the user to determine the range and azimuth of any target in view, as the antenna rotated. In practice, this would not be a very effective display. With targets only being visible for a short period, once per revolution of the antenna, the human brain would have difficulty in assessing any real situation.

    What is perhaps ideally required is a plan view, such that the radar image creates a ‘map’ of the surrounding area, allowing easy assimilation of the current situation by the user. This is particularly relevant in our modern world as it also allows the radar display to show conventionally charted features as an ‘underlay’ to the radar image, putting them into geographical context.

    The term Plan Position Indicator (PPI) has been used for this type of radar display, since the 1940s. Nowadays the precise image on the display is produced by digital processing technology. This effectively computes the amplitude of the received signal, as shown in Figure 1.4 for the A-scan, at small increments of range. The increment used is known as the range cell increment. The process produces a computerized list of signal strengths against range for the particular azimuth angle (bearing) of the antenna. The next radar pulse is transmitted when the antenna has turned through a small angle, known as the azimuth cell increment, creating another list of signal strengths for each range cell increment. This ongoing process results in a digitally stored table of signal strengths against range and azimuth angle. This process is illustrated in Figure 1.5.

    Figure 1.5 Creating a table of received signal strengths: (a) plane view of area with the own ship’s position at centre and (b) table of amplitudes.

    The main diagram is a plan view of an area with the ship’s position at the centre, showing its heading as a vertical arrow. It looks rather similar to a radar display, but in this case it is solely representing the actual geographical situation. Each cell increment in the azimuthal direction is depicted as a radial line and each increment in the radial direction as a circle, centred at the own ship’s position. The actual increment size is chosen so that a point target would be detected in a number of adjacent range and azimuth sampling points, taking into account the beamwidth of the antenna and the length of the transmitted pulse. This means, in practice, that there are many more azimuth cells than are depicted in Figure 1.5, typically 1,024 or more covering the full 360°. Also, the length of a range cell is typically measured in tens of metres but depends on the chosen pulse length, see Section The reflected signal strength measurement is centred at the crossing points of these lines and circles. The radar stores them as a table of values of signal strengths (amplitudes), which is also depicted in Figure 1.5. The illustrated table uses realistic values, including the depiction of signal strength. Signal strength, in this example, is based on a scaled value of between 0 and 1,023.

    To display the image the radar’s digital processor has to convert the ranges and azimuths of the measurements to ‘x’ and ‘y’ coordinates, relative to the own ship, using the simple mathematical concept illustrated in Figure 1.6. After scaling the x and y positions to allow them to be represented on the radar display, the received echoes are indicated at their equivalent position by spots of appropriate colour and intensity, depending on the received signal strength. At every revolution of the antenna the stored data, and hence the resultant radar image, is updated. This process produces the conventional image of displayed radar targets, such as that illustrated in Figure 1.7.

    Figure 1.6 Conversion of range and azimuths to (x,y) Cartesian coordinates.

    Figure 1.7 Displayed radar targets. Figure courtesy of Kelvin Hughes.

    Today, the radar display is a conventional ‘flat-panel’ electronic screen, similar to that used on modern TVs and computer displays. The technology lying behind flat-panel displays is discussed in Section 2.8.3. The radar image is conventionally shown within a circular domain, with a radius equivalent to the selected maximum display range. This is no longer compulsory under the international regulations that govern marine radar but remains a widespread practice, reflecting the fact that original radar cathode ray tube (CRT) displays were circular rather than rectangular. These used to epitomize a radar installation, see Figure 1.8. There is always a bearing scale shown around the periphery of the operational display area, whether circular or otherwise. On older radars this used to be engraved on the rim surrounding the CRT. Nowadays, the scale is produced electronically and forms part of the displayed image. The bearing scale is labelled in degrees.

    Figure 1.8 Older radar display. Figure courtesy of Kelvin Hughes.

    Also displayed are range circles centred on the origin (position of the own ship). These are known as range rings and can be set to convenient values by the operator, see Figure 1.9. This shows the radar on a 12 NM scale, with range rings set at 2 NM spacing. The rings can be switched off, if not required. In addition there are tools that enable a user to accurately determine the range and bearing of any target on the display. These are fully discussed in Section 6.9 and, for instance, include a variable range marker (VRM), as also illustrated in Figure 1.9.

    Figure 1.9 Radar range rings and VRM.

    The normally circular operational display area of a radar is a useful means of assessing quickly whether any particular display on a ship’s bridge is set up as a radar or as an electronic chart. The latter image is generally displayed as a rectangle, even though it may have radar data included in the displayed image. Section 10.2 explains the significant differences between viewing and using radar-derived data on a radar display (PPI) and on an electronic chart. In general, the simple rule is that fundamental decisions concerning collision avoidance should always be made on the radar display, but the main route monitoring activity should be using the chart display.

    The term PPI will perhaps cease to be used over time, especially with the increased use of multifunction displays, which can be set to be used at any one time as a radar, electronic chart or other navigational display. However, this book will use the terms PPI and radar display interchangeably, as is in common usage at the time of writing. Into the future the likely trend is that the main radar display will increasingly become known as the collision avoidance display and the electronic chart display (when not being used for route planning) as the route monitoring display. When radar data is being used for other functions, such as position fixing or assistance with route monitoring, these task will be performed on the appropriate display modes, showing relevant radar information as well as other available data. Target Trails

    It is very often useful on a radar display for the past track of targets to remain visible, at least for a few minutes. This can give a much clearer visualization of the movement of critical targets. Targets are said to leave a trail on the display. Originally this feature was achieved by using CRTs with a very high image persistence. Any instantaneous image on the display only slowly faded because of the specially chosen phosphors used on the display surface of the CRT. Consequently, targets would create a line on the display, showing their past positions. Close to the most recent position of the target the trail would be bright and would gradually fade to being invisible further along its length, see Figure 1.10. Nowadays this effect is artificially created by digital processing of the displayed radar image. This allows greater flexibility in the display of trails, such as their time length to extinction and whether or not they are displayed. It also more clearly distinguishes between targets and trials, for instance, by the use of different colours.

    Figure 1.10 Target trails.

    1.3 Principles of Bearing Measurement

    1.3.1 The Heading Marker

    In general, a bearing is the angle between the direction of a chosen reference and that of an object of interest. On a PPI display the fundamental reference is the instantaneous direction of the observing vessel’s heading. As the axis of the beam of the radar antenna crosses the ship’s fore-and-aft line in the forward direction, a sensor within the turning mechanism of the radar antenna is activated and the associated electronics sends a timing pulse to the radar receiver. This pulse is used to synchronize the display electronics to the antenna rotation and, in particular, is used as the reference for the heading marker or heading indicator. In addition, azimuth pulses are generated at regular angular increments as the antenna rotates to take into account its potentially uneven rotation due to wind, vibration and vessel motion effects. Thus all targets are displayed, not only in the correct angular relationship to one another, but also in the correct angular relationship to the own ship’s heading (see Figure 1.11).

    Figure 1.11 The build-up of the picture.

    The angle between the observed vessel’s heading and the direction of the horizontal beam is sometimes called the antenna angle. IMO Performance Standards (see Section 11.2.1) require that the heading marker is able to be aligned to within 0.1°. The procedure for checking this accuracy is discussed in Section 6.6.8. There is a danger that a target may be masked if it lies in the direction of the heading marker. The specification recognizes this danger by requiring that there is a provision for temporarily switching the marker off. However, it is such an important feature on the radar display that it cannot be permanently switched off. In particular, the appearance of the heading marker confirms the orientation of the display (see Section 1.4).

    A modern radar may also be able to display a stern line, drawn on a reciprocal bearing to the heading, which can be very useful when manoeuvring astern. This line can be switched on or off, as required. The heading line remains visible when the stern line is selected.

    1.3.2 Bearing Measurement

    IMO Performance Standards (see Section 11.2.1) require that provision be made for quickly obtaining the bearing of any object whose echo appears on the display. Traditionally this was fulfilled by a variety of mechanical and electromechanical devices which enabled the observer to measure the angle between the heading marker and the object of interest. On a modern radar, electronic bearing lines (EBLs) are used for this measurement. In particular, these are designed to be able to quickly determine the bearing of a target with respect to the own ship’s heading. In the basic setting of the radar the EBL emanates from the centre (origin) of the display, there will the own ship’s position, to the edge of the operational display area, where its angular position can be read off from the bearing scale around the periphery of the area. Using the appropriate controls the operator can orientate the EBL such that it passes through the target of interest. This is illustrated in Figure 1.12(a). In addition to the bearing scale facility there will also be a numerical readout of the bearing on the display, which is more typically used nowadays rather than the bearing scale. The bearing scale mainly helps the user to keep an appropriate awareness of bearing. A variety of bearing measurement facilities and the correct procedure for their use are discussed in Section 6.6.

    Figure 1.12 Measurement of bearing: (a) relative bearing and (b) true bearing.

    1.4 Display Modes

    There are a number of display modes on a modern radar for determining exactly how the radar shows information in relation to the outside world. These cover three different areas, which are referred to as orientation, motion and stabilization modes. The orientation mode defines how the ‘vertical’ direction of the display aligns with the outside world horizontal (azimuthal) direction; the motion mode defines how the own-vessel moves with respect to the display; and the stabilization mode defines how absolute movement is referenced – relative to the ground or relative to the sea. Taking the display to be a conventional graphical representation in x and y coordinates, it is the y-direction that is considered to be vertical and the x-direction as being horizontal.

    1.4.1 Orientation Modes

    A vessel’s radar display provides a choice of orientation modes. The natural mode is the one already described where the heading direction of the ship, and therefore the heading line, is vertically upwards on the display. This is known as the head-up mode.

    There are two other orientation modes available. One is termed north-up, where the vertical direction represents true-north and the other is course-up, where the vertical direction of the display represents the desired course of the vessel. Head-Up Orientation

    This orientation, where the heading marker is always vertical on the display, is illustrated in Figure 1.13. As the vessel’s heading changes, so does the orientation of the displayed image – the image is vessel stabilized, aligning with the view from the bridge windows, but is unstabilized with respect to true-north. The figure shows the situation just before and after a course change. This was the only orientation mode available on very early marine radars because of cost and technological limitations. However, the only significant attraction of using the basic head-up mode today is that it does not need a working gyro or compass input to the radar, unlike the other orientation modes on a modern radar, north-up and course-up. These modes, described separately in the sections below, stabilize the orientation of the radar image. For this reason, head-up mode is often described as unstabilized. If compass problems are encountered its use may be essential and so needs to be fully understood.

    Figure 1.13 Head-up orientation (unstabilized).

    The head-up unstabilized mode is superficially attractive because of the very fact that the displayed radar image corresponds directly with the scene as viewed through the wheelhouse window. A well placed display unit, close to the bridge windows and facing forwards, means that irrespective of whether the user is viewing the radar screen or looking forward through the wheelhouse window, objects on the starboard side of the ship will lie on the right of the display and those on the port side will lie on the left.

    However, this orientation mode became generally little used after north-up stabilization was introduced on marine radars. This was for a number of reasons. Firstly, the head-up image of earlier radars could become very unclear when in head-up mode. The ‘afterglow’ trail of static targets, especially of extended targets such as land masses, could obliterate critical small moving targets when the image rotated. This is not such a serious problem on modern radars set to head-up mode because of the digital processing technology now employed. Secondly, small yawing movements of the vessel create corresponding oscillations in the orientation of the radar image, which can make precise target range and bearing measurements difficult. This generally remains an issue, even on a modern radar set to unstabilized head-up mode. The third issue is that the bearing scale on an unstabilized head-up radar is not true-north related, and therefore creates extra work in establishing the true bearing of targets.

    A particular reason for north-up mode becoming so frequently used was the general attractiveness of using an orientation which matches that of the paper chart, since it considerably benefits situation awareness. In fact, with the advent of electronic charts, which can also be displayed in head-up mode, the use of a head-up orientation mode potentially becomes more attractive. Before the era of electronic charts the use of head-up mode was mainly confined to special situations, such as when negotiating rivers, estuaries, narrow channels and locks, or when no compass interface was available. While course-up mode, described in Section, is a good alternative, many radars have an advanced head-up mode that is generally called stabilized head-up. This uses the gyro/compass input to orientate the bearing scale such that the heading direction is referenced relative to true-north, together with any other indications of bearing on the radar display. Smart processing can also prevent small yawing motions of the vessel creating an oscillating image, generally allowing targets, measurements to be easily performed, and also improving the clarity of the display.

    It should be borne in mind that in both stabilized and unstabilized head-up mode, an unwary or poorly trained observer can be misled by the angular rotation of the display as the own-vessel heading changes. For example, a small change of course by the observing vessel may give the impression that the bearing of a target is changing, while in fact the true bearing is remaining constant. The extremely important topic of systematic observation of target movement is discussed at length in Chapter 7. North-Up Orientation

    In north-up orientation, the heading marker is aligned with the graduation on the bearing scale that corresponds with the instantaneous value of the ship’s heading relative to true-north. It means that 000° on the bearing scale aligns with true-north. Thus the observer views the picture with north at the ‘top’ of the screen and it is for this reason that the orientation is so named. Figure 1.12(b) shows the same situation as that displayed in the head-up mode in Figure 1.12(a) but with the system set to north-up, assuming that the own ship is on a heading of 280°. Compass stabilization is essential to maintain north-up orientation, not least when the observing vessel alters course or yaws about its chosen course (Figure 1.14, which compares the cases for head-up, north-up and course-up operation). The stabilization signal can be derived from any transmitting compass, but in practice the signal source is often a gyro compass, which is compulsory for larger vessels. The principles of north-up orientation are illustrated in Figure 1.15.

    Figure 1.14 Target trails and the effect of yaw.

    Figure 1.15 North-up orientation (stabilized).

    A major benefit is that the orientation compares directly with that of the paper chart. Also, because the display is stabilized it removed the significant disadvantage of earlier radars that changes in heading caused significant blurring of the radar displayed image when in head-up mode. These two factors have led to north-up mode becoming the most commonly used orientation option on most vessels. It also remains relevant when using electronic charts in north-up mode. Some users find using electronic charts and radar in north-up preferable, as it aligns both the radar and the chart image with the mind image they have of the area, easing situation awareness. For others, especially when on a southerly course, they find north-up awkward or uncomfortable to view as it appears ‘upside down’. Course-Up Orientation

    In course-up orientation the vertical direction on the display is aligned to the bearing which represents the desired course of the vessel. This can be obtained either automatically or semi-automatically from route planning information stored within the radar or by the operator selecting a particular course. By virtue of the compass stabilization, changes in the vessel’s instantaneous heading are reflected by sympathetic angular movements of the heading marker, thus maintaining the ship’s course (the reference course) in alignment with the display’s vertical direction. For the same reason, the angular wander of echoes associated with an unstabilized display is eliminated. On modern radars the bearing scale will be relative to true-north, but older radars may have the vertical direction always shown as 000°, representing the desired course. Figure 1.16 illustrates course-up orientation.

    Figure 1.16 Course-up orientation (stabilized) – resetting the reference course.

    Provided that the observing vessel does not stray very far from her chosen course, this orientation can be more effective than a stabilized head-up orientation because it eliminates all angular wander of the picture due to yaw, while maintaining the heading marker approximately vertical on the display. Inevitably a major alteration of course will become necessary either due to the requirements of collision avoidance or to those of general navigation. When the vessel is steadied on the new course the orientation, although not meaningless, will have lost its property of being substantially head-up. The problem is that the orientation is still previous-course-up and the picture should be re-oriented to align the heading marker to the vertical direction of the display (see Figure 1.16(d)). Choice of Orientation

    The fundamental function of any civil marine radar is to provide a means of measuring the ranges and bearings of targets for collision avoidance and the determination of the observing vessel’s position in order to ensure safe navigation. The ease with which these objectives can be achieved is affected by the choice of orientation. Where the various techniques of collision avoidance and navigation are described in this text, appropriate attention will be given to the influence of orientation. The practical use and setting up of orientations is discussed in Chapter 6. Table 1.1 summarizes the essential features of the three described orientations.

    Table 1.1

    Picture Orientations Compared

    Except in emergency situations, when azimuth stabilization has been compromised by equipment failure, head-up unstabilized orientation has nothing to offer other than its subjective appeal, because by its very nature it regularly disrupts the steady-state condition conducive to measurement of bearing and tracking of echo movement (see Figure 1.14(a)). The stabilized north-up and course-up orientations do not exhibit this angular disruption and hence are equally superior in fulfilling the fundamental requirements. Fortunately they are complementary in that while one is north-up, the other is orientated in such a way as not to alienate the user who has a ship’s-head-up preference. On some radar systems, stabilized head-up orientation may be included as an alternative to the use of course-up mode.

    1.5 Motion and Stabilization Modes

    There are two motion modes, known as relative motion and true motion. Relative means relative to the own ship, while true means relative to an outside reference system. The outside reference is split into two stabilization modes – ground stabilized and sea stabilized. Ground stabilization requires an external sensor signal that at least can determine the speed over ground (SOG) of the observing vessel. In today’s world this is typically based on the output of a Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS) using data from the US Global Positioning System (GPS) and/or Russia’s Globalnaya Navigatsionnaya Sputnikovaya Sistema (GLONASS). Other systems can also give this information, as discussed in Section 6.9.6. When sea stabilized, the important sensor is the speed log, which measures the vessel’s speed through the water (STW).

    1.5.1 Relative-Motion Presentation

    In relative-motion presentation the origin of the display, which always represents the effective position of the observing vessel, is stationary. Commonly, the origin is located at the centre of the display circle, but the user can move this to a position of choice to better meet the needs of the actual situation. The essential feature is that the origin is stationary and as a consequence targets exhibit their motion relative to the observing vessel. The setting of relative motion is independent of the chosen orientation mode. Also, in terms of where the targets appear on the display at any one time, it is immaterial whether ground or sea stabilization has been set, simply because all positions are referenced to the observing vessel. The essential features of a relative-motion presentation are best illustrated by an example. In this example it is assumed that any leeway is negligible.

    Consider the case of an observing vessel on a steady heading of 000° (T) at a speed of 10 knots through the water in a tide (which is uniform throughout the area) setting 270° (T) at a rate of 4 knots. For this case the basic PPI view would look very similar, whether the orientation mode was set to head-up (unstabilized or stabilized), course-up or north-up. A simplified chart of the situation is illustrated in Figure 1.17(a), showing four targets:

    i. Vessel A which is located 7 NM due north of the observing vessel and is stopped in the water heading 045° (T).

    ii. Vessel B which is located 8 NM due east of vessel A and is on a steady heading of 270° (T) at a speed of 10 knots through the water.

    iii. Vessel C which is located 5 NM due north of vessel A and is on a steady heading of 180° (T) at a speed of 5 knots through the water.

    iv. A large navigational buoy L which is anchored and therefore, for the purposes of this example, can be considered to be stationary over the ground. Its position is 7 NM due west of vessel A.

    Figure 1.17 Relative-motion presentation.

    To assist in the understanding of relative motion, Figure 1.17(b) represents the observing vessel’s PPI as it would appear at 1000 h. For comparison, Figure 1.17(c) represents the same PPI showing the positions of the echoes as they would appear at 1030 together with a record of their 1000 positions. It will be noticed that the shape of the echoes normally gives little indication of the outline of the targets, as explained in Section 2.8.5. Consider now the movement of each of the four echoes in turn, commencing with that of the water-stationary target A, which offers a simple basis on which an understanding of all relative motion can be built. It is important to remember the assumption that the observing vessel is maintaining a steady heading.

    In the period 1000–1030 the observing vessel will move north by a distance of 5 NM through the water. Because the origin remains stationary, and the range of target A decreases at 10 NM/h (knots), it follows that the echo of A will move down the heading marker by a distance of 5 NM in the 30 min interval. This reveals the basic property of the relative-motion presentation which is that the echo of a target which is stationary in the water will move across the screen in a direction reciprocal to that of the observing vessel’s heading, at a rate equal to the observing vessel’s STW. Importantly, this is not generally the case if heading is replaced by course over ground (COG) and STW is replaced by SOG.

    Consider now the movement of the echo of vessel B which at 1000 was 8 NM due east of the stationary vessel A. As B is heading directly towards A at 10 knots, it follows that its 1030 position will be 3 NM due east of A.Figure 1.17(c) reveals that the trail left by the echo of vessel B offers an indication of how far off the target will pass if neither vessel manoeuvres. However, the echo has moved across the screen in a direction and at a rate which is quite different from the target’s course and speed. An appreciation of this fact is absolutely essential if the basic presentation is to be interpreted correctly and used in assessing collision avoidance strategy. (In practice, target tracking vectors would be used to make such decisions, as discussed in detail in Section 4.4 and Chapter 7) Further consideration of the figure will show that the relative motion of echo B is the resultant of that of a water-stationary target (which is determined by the observing vessel’s course and STW) and the true motion of the vessel B through the water. An analogous argument can be based on ground referenced motions. The proper use of radar for collision avoidance is based on systematic observation and analysis of both the relative motion and the true motion of the other targets in an encounter (see Chapter 7).

    Consider now the movement on the screen of the echo of vessel C. At 1000 its position was 5 NM due north of the water-stationary vessel A and heading directly towards it at 5 knots. It follows that at 1030 its position will be 2.5 NM north of vessel A. As shown in Figure 1.17(c), because the echo of vessel A has itself moved across the screen by 5 NM in a direction of south, the aggregate movement of echo C is 7.5 NM in the same direction. Thus, as in the case of vessel B, the echo has moved across the screen in a way that is different from the movement of the vessel through the water. However it should be noted that, by coincidence, the track across the screen of echo C is in the same direction as that of the water-stationary target A. This reveals a further feature of the relative-motion presentation, which is that the echoes of targets which are stopped in the water, targets which are on a reciprocal course to the observing vessel and targets which are on the same course as the observing vessel, but slower, will all move across the screen in the same direction (but at different speeds). This feature has the potential to mislead the untrained or unwary observer into confusing, for example, a target that is being overtaken with one that is on a reciprocal course. This further emphasizes the necessity of having a good understanding of these basic principles and a systematic approach when using the radar for collision avoidance (see Chapter 7).

    Initially the east/west distance between the buoy and the stationary ship was 7 NM. As the tide is setting the stationary vessel down on to the buoy at 4 knots, it follows that this distance will have reduced to 5 NM by 1030. A study of Figure 1.17(c) will show that the echo of the buoy has moved across the screen in a direction which is the reciprocal of the observing vessel’s ground track at a speed equal to the speed of the observing vessel over the ground. This property is exploited in the use of radar for navigation (as opposed to collision avoidance); the various procedures are set out in Chapter 8.

    1.5.2 The True-Motion Presentation

    It has been shown that in a relative-motion presentation the movement of all echoes across the screen is affected by the course and speed of the observing vessel. In a correctly adjusted true-motion presentation, the echo movement of all targets is rendered independent of the motion of the observing vessel. This is achieved by causing the origin of the picture to track across the screen in a direction and at a rate which corresponds with the motion of the observing vessel. There is clearly a fundamental difference to the actual movement of the origin as to whether ground or sea stabilisation has been set, although the displayed basic geometrical layout of targets with respect to the origin (but not its orientation or absolute position) always remains identical on the PPI. This remains true whatever the orientation, motion or stabilisation mode, simply because the ‘world outside’ is obviously not affected by the settings of the radar.

    It is clear that after a period of time the origin – that is the position of the observing vessel – will move to the edge of the display. It then has to be reset, either by user intervention or by an automatic process set up by the user. Strategies for resetting are discussed in Section True-Motion Sea-Stabilized Presentation

    To produce a true-motion sea-stabilized presentation, the origin of the picture must be made to track across the screen in a direction and at a rate that corresponds with the observing vessel’s course and STW. In the example in the illustration (Figure 1.18) the course is 000° (T) and the speed is 10 knots.

    Figure 1.18 True-motion sea-stabilized presentation.

    Figure 1.18(b) shows the PPI of the observing vessel as it would appear at 1000. The origin of the picture is offset in such a way as to make optimum use of the available screen area (see Section Figure 1.18(c) shows the position of the four echoes as they would appear at 1030, together with an indication of their 1000 positions for the purpose of comparison. The movement of each of the four echoes will now be considered in turn, commencing with target A which is stopped in the water.

    In the interval 1000–1030 the origin will move due north by a scale distance of 5 NM, while in the same time target A will remain on the heading marker but its range will decrease by 5 NM. It follows that the net motion of the echo of target A will be zero. Consideration of Figure 1.18 reveals the basic property of a correctly setup true-motion sea-stabilized presentation, which is that the echo of a target which is stationary in the water will maintain a constant position on the screen.

    At 1000 the moving target B was located 8 NM due east of vessel A. As it is heading directly towards A its bearing from A will remain steady, but the range will have decreased to 3 NM by 1030. Figure 1.18(c) shows that the echo of target B will move across the screen in a direction and at a rate which corresponds with the target vessel’s course and STW. A similar argument will reveal that the echo of vessel C will move across the screen in a direction of 180° (T) at a scale speed of 5 knots. The presentation thus has the property that the target trails offer an indication of the headings (actually course through the water – CTW) of all moving targets. This feature is complementary to the corresponding property of the relative-motion presentation (see Section 1.5.1). It must be stressed that collision avoidance strategy must be based on systematic analysis of the displayed target movements, as detailed in Chapter 7.

    As a result of the tide, the water-stationary vessel A will be set directly towards the buoy and by 1030 the east/west distance between the two will have reduced to 5 NM. It has been established that echo A will maintain its position on the screen, and thus it follows that in the interval from 1000 to 1030, echo L will move east across the screen by a scale distance of 2 NM. Consideration of Figure 1.18(c) will show that a third property of the true-motion sea-stabilized presentation is that land-stationary targets will move across the screen at a rate equal to the tide but in the opposite direction to the set.

    In considering the properties of the true-motion sea-stabilized presentation it is essential to appreciate that the accuracy with which the displayed target movements are presented is completely dependent on the accuracy with which the direction and rate of the movement of the picture origin represents the observing vessel’s course and

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