What do I need for my marine autopilot system?
Discover the elements that make up a marine autopilot system
A marine autopilot system is made up of a number of components. Some of these will be determined by the type of boat you have while others will come down to the level of performance you require or design choice. This article explores the different elements of your autopilot system.
In an autopilot system, the drive unit is what actually moves your rudder under control of the autopilot computer. The drive unit you’ll need depends on the size of your boat and the sort of steering system it has.
Whether you command your autopilot via multifunction display, dedicated autopilot controller or remote control, there’s an autopilot computer sitting below deck that takes your input, looks at your current heading and works out how to move the rudder or outboard.
Heading Sensor/ Compass
To set and hold a course, your autopilot needs to know your current heading. This is supplied by a position sensor – an electronic compass – below deck.
For reliable and accurate autosteering, your autopilot must also keep track of your rudder position. A rudder feedback unit does just that – it physically connects to your rudder, continually measures its position and reports it to your autopilot computer.
Autopilot computers, heading sensors and rudder feedback units are available to purchase seperately or can be purchased as part of a corepack
Where most of the above elements are determined by your vessel, the control of your autopilot comes down to the space you have available and your personal preferences. B&G autopilots can be controlled via dedicated keypad controllers or via chartplotter integration with a compatible chartplotter.
Dedicated Autopilot Controllers
Suitable for vessels with limited mounting space, or as an alternative to a second touchscreen MFD in dual-helm installations, these controllers provide heading control and access to autopilot features.
Chartplotter / Multifunction Display (MFD) integration
As well as dedicated autopilot controllers, B&G autopilots can be controlled completely from the touchscreen or keypad of compatible B&G chartplotters / Multi-Function Displays (MFD).
Autopilot remotes can be combined with a multifunction display at the helm to add traditional hands-on steering control, or mounted elsewhere aboard your vessel to provide autopilot heading control from another convenient location.