For many boaters autopilots are essential equipment, not merely devices to make your day on the water less stressful or more fun, although pilots deliver those goods as well. Like just about every other piece of electronics onboard, autopilots have continuously stepped up their game in terms of performance and user friendliness.
If you’re shopping for a pilot that meets both your needs and those of your boat, we’re here to help. Below are autopilots that manufacturers singled out as their Best & Brightest—not necessarily the latest model or the one with the most features, but the pilot that may be their most popular or technologically advanced or the workhorse of the line. This list is part of an exercise that Marine Electronics Journal does every year in which we report on 17 categories of electronics. We call it the Best & Brightest Boating Electronics. Last week we looked at top-rated MFDs-multifunction displays. Next week The Mic will roll out the Best & Brightest audio entertainment systems and speakers.
Garmin GHP Reactor 40 with SmartPump v2
Garmin’s 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°. With a complete package designed for powerboats and sailboats, Garmin brings an advanced marine technology to the boating public that was once only available for commercial boats. Experience the ultimate hydraulic autopilot performance when paired with the one-size-fits-most, high-reliability, brushless SmartPump v2 that 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.
Simrad’s NAC-D is a steer-by-wire autopilot solution for electronic vessel control systems. With NAC-D, boaters with SeaStar Optimus, Yanmar VC10/JC10, Volvo IPS/EVC or Yamaha helm master/single engine control systems can benefit from all the full features and performance of Simrad autopilots. Easy to install, NAC-D requires only the connection of two Micro-C connectors. There is no requirement for an additional hydraulic pump, rudder sensor installation or dockside rudder calibration. This saves boaters time and money. Featuring Continuum steering and support for SteadySteer, the NAC-D allows automatic switching between two speed profiles, delivering optimal steering performance at both low and high speeds. Users can choose the controller to suit their preference from dedicated controllers like the AP 44 or AP 48.
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 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.
ComNav’s P4 autopilot is state-of-the-art technology. Its 5.7-inch color display with intuitive menu offers a digital encode switch that makes executing the menus, course changes and adjustments a simple task. Built-in thruster assist feature makes docking in tight spots simple and easy. The P4 is fully compatible with NMEA 0183
, enhancing its versatility. Add the Legacy Remote expander and use your existing older remotes (101/211/TS202 series), saving several thousand dollars. Field upgradeable using Ethernet.
Furuno NavPilot 300
Furuno’s NavPilot 300 is ideal 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 Gesture Controller. The Gesture Controller allows you to point and shoot in any direction, controlling your vessel’s steering from anywhere onboard within 10 meters of the helm. Simply push the button on the Gesture Controller, point to the desired heading, then release the button to let the autopilot redirect the boat. Imagine true point-and-click steering from anywhere on the boat. The NavPilot 300 also includes Furuno’s unique Sabiki Mode, which steers 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.
Professional solutions for hydraulically steered boats. Reliability and performance in a smaller, lighter, quieter hydraulic reversing gear pump package. Efficiency: smaller gear diameter minimizes oil leakage at bearing faces thus improving volumetric efficiency. Lower power consumption, particularly under demanding conditions requiring higher flow rates equates to a major advantage over competing units. Wide range of options from 600 to 3000 cc/min, 12V and 24V. Cost savings: increased efficiency and performance mean the pumps can be used with smaller autopilot course computers than equivalent drive units. Compact: smaller footprint of the gear pump increases installation flexibility. Suitable for balanced or unbalanced cylinders.
The SI-TEX SP-120C autopilot features a compact, rugged housing and full-color LCD display that can be easily viewed from a variety of different angles on open or enclosed helms. This makes the SP-120C an ideal autopilot option for a wide variety of vessels up to 38 feet in length. The color display also provides navigators with a range of useful new graphic presentations, including a Rudder Angle Meter and Compass Steering Display. The SP-120C comes paired with SI-TEX’s powerful new nine-axis rate compass for precise course detection and steering control in a wide variety of sea conditions. 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.
B&G Triton 2
The B&G Triton 2 is a smart, multipurpose 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.