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Radar Reflectors on Boats: Requirements and Installation

May 31, 2022

A radar reflector is a useful device that can help prevent large and small vessels from colliding on the water, particularly in adverse conditions. But what exactly is a radar reflector? How does it work? Is it required on all vessels?

Find out the answers to all of these questions and more in this article from the experts at Drive a Boat Canada!

What is a radar reflector?

Radar is used to determine the location and velocity of objects at a distance. Radar sends out electromagnetic waves that are reflected by objects in their path, indicating their position.

A radar reflector is a device that can be attached to a boat to make it more visible on radar. The device is made up of multiple pieces of metal that intersect to form a geometric shape that creates a strong reflection on radar.

Why some boats need radar reflectors

Radar reflectors are an important piece of boating safety equipment because small vessels can be difficult to detect on the water, both visually and by radar. Due to their size, they can be barely visible to the naked eye from a distance, particularly from the bridge of a larger vessel. In rough weather, they can be completely obscured by fog, spray or swells.

In restricted visibility conditions, radar is often one of the only ways for small vessels to make their presence known. Unfortunately, boats that are small, sit low in the water or are made of wood or fiberglass are difficult to spot on radar. That’s why it’s vital to have a properly positioned radar reflector so that larger vessels are able to detect your presence and avoid collisions.

Radar reflector requirements on boats

According to the Collision Regulations, pleasure crafts that are less than 20 m long or made primarily of non-metallic materials must be equipped with a passive radar reflector. However, there are exceptions—a radar reflector is not required if the craft is operating in areas with light traffic, during the day and in favourable weather conditions. Furthermore, if a radar reflector is not essential to the safety of the vessel or its small size makes it impractical to mount, it is not required.

Best place to install a radar reflector

A radar reflector must be mounted or suspended at least 4 m above the water in order to be effective. The reflector’s size also has a major impact on its effectiveness—generally speaking, the bigger it is, the better.

Boat safely with Drive a Boat Canada!

Ensuring that your craft can be detected by other vessels in the vicinity as early as possible is one of the best ways to avoid a collision. That being said, it’s not safe to assume that radar alone will protect you on the water—you should always keep a proper lookout and practice other preventive methods as well.

In order to ensure that boaters on Canadian waters are familiar with regulations and know how to keep themselves and others safe, the law requires recreational vessel operators to have a license known as a Pleasure Craft Operator Card. Drive a Boat Canada offers a comprehensive safety course that prepares boaters to take the boating exam online to obtain their card. Register for our course today to begin your boating adventure!