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August 28, 2012

Radio Revamp

VHF offers more than a means to make idle conversation

Follow That Car

Kennedy sees VHF as the backbone of a total communications system. “AIS is the hottest thing in VHF communications, and everybody’s coming out with a version of it,” he says. It’s also part of an integrated system that is developing in the shadow of the automotive model. “Look at the car industry,” he adds. “The communications center is controlled by touch screen, and that is what is happening with the marine. Most of the changes are happening in the plotter.”

The best of the new gear contributes to simpler integration and duplicates some of the plotter capabilities. The new Standard Horizon GX2150 ($399) not only sports its own display screen but also eliminates the need for a second antenna to receive AIS data. 

Look to the Future

Navico is also in the process of pushing its VHF technology forward in new ways, and Don Korte, senior engineer for the company, predicts an interesting picture. He anticipates an overall systems approach with a lot more AIS over NMEA 2000. Case in point: the Lowrance LVR 880 ($220), which integrates the AIS functions and also works like a full navigator, capable of both straight-line and great circle navigation.

“We can upgrade the radio software over NMEA 2000 with an SD card in the MFD and add functions as they are developed,” Korte says. “Typically, a radio is a bugger to upgrade. This makes it easy if, for instance, you want the radio to talk to an AIS target or something. You are going to see higher-resolution screens on the radio because, like the LVR 880, VHFs are beginning to function like miniature plotters.”