Radar reflectors, do they really work?
Big thanks to John G. for a head’s up about the MAIB’s recent report called “Performance Investigation of Marine Radar Reflectors on the Market.” The full PDF is available on this page, along with a typically MAIB meticulous report on the tragic sinking that prompted it. Three sailors died after the big ferry Pride of Balboa apparently ran down the 26′ yacht Ouzo early one morning near the Isle of Wight. At any rate, the graph above plots the average Radar Cross Sections of most available reflectors. You won’t like those results once you understand them. The testers concluded that only the Sea-Me active reflector delivers a strong enough radar return to even meet the ISO 8729 standard, and some perform so poorly that they aren’t worth carrying because they’ll only give skippers a false sense of security! None of this real news; in fact I discussed similar findings here almost two years ago. But it’s a good idea to be reminded that even good passive radar reflectors have limited abilities. Plus I was surprised that the MAIB didn’t mention Class B AIS in their recommendations about collision avoidance. Did I miss something?