Echomax RTE looks great, but what about USA?
I first got excited about RTEs (Radar Target Enhancers) in 2002 when the Sea-Me came out; in fact, it inspired one of my favorite PMY columns (in which you’ll also learn why I want a whomping big horn on Gizmo). The Sea-Me went on to be quite a successful product, at least in the U.K., but now Echomax — the Brits who already build a respected line of static radar reflectors — has come out with its own Active-X RTE, and apparently it just plain kicks Sea-Me’s butt…
Active-X returns a much larger Radar Cross Section (RCS) when painted by another vessel, even at at greater angles of heel; it uses less power while in action, or on standby; and it can alarm you when painted in ways Sea-Me can’t. And I’m not just going by Echomax’s own words and lab testing (excerpt below). I’ve seen a Practical Boat Owner head-to-head test article that leaves little doubt. In PBO’s on-water trial, an Active-X mounted on a RIB held MARPA lock to 6.7 miles, while a Sea-Me went away at 5.5, and it faded away more slowly when heeled. But there are some issues regarding RTEs.
One is that the current contenders only work with X-band radars, and don’t enhance your target at all if the ship coming at you is using S-band. I don’t have much sense of which radar sets ship bridges, but maybe some readers do? I also wonder, as does PBO, if Class B AIS transponders won’t largely solve the being-seen-by-ships issue? And then there’s the question of RTE sales in the USA. Though I asked Sea-Me about this years ago, it’s still unclear to me if an RTE requires FCC approval (probably) and what that would take. Or if they even care. I know Echomax is looking into this but is a little daunted by the attorney fees just to get started. Would any Panbot care to advise them, and, more important, would any consider an Active-X if available (for about $650)?