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Competing Products


One of the most comprehensive tests of radar reflector performance was carried out in 1995 by West Marine The conclusions were that the poor performance of the Firdell Blipper 210/5 and 210/7 were surprising given their popularity and reputation, and although a well packaged and clever device, the models tested (i.e. 210-5 and 210-7) were not large enough to have much value aboard a vessel. Furthermore, they were also unable to obtain results consistant with those supplied by Firdell, stating that their claims were consistant with a larger reflector. The Echomax range is included in the 2003 West Marine catalogue, replacing the Firdell Blipper.

Prior to publishing their test results West contacted Firdell for their comments. Firdell claimed that only Target Pattern Maps were reliable. Thereupon West further tested the unit using Target Pattern Mapping and found it made no difference to their original findings.

Similar conclusions were drawn in the Practical Boat Owner test published in a series of articles see issue 391 July 1999. “Having so many reflectors close together produces a polar plot made up of several spikes ‘a good response’ separated by an equal number of deep interference troughs in which the reflection from one corner reflector cancels out the reflection from the other.”

In 1993 the Trading Standards Authority forced Firdell to reprint their literature removing the claim that the Firdell Blipper met ISO 8729, RORC and ORC regulations. False claims still persist in Chandlery catalogues and on the Internet. Firdells current literature only refers to a highly volumetric structure but still makes false claims about 360 degrees performance at 2.5m2 at +/- 15 degrees of heel. As will be seen from the polar diagram below they do not achieve this performance in the vertical position. To say they only have six nulls over 10 degrees is generous. They do not have a website and have little published data on their reflectors. The target pattern map we managed to get from them was coloured in by them with crayon!


Echomax EM230+





April 2001 6.3m2 Nov 2001

Response below peak

12 peaks 20m2 @ 30 Degree intervals

Peaks - 4m2 & 5m2

Performance @ 1.25m2



Performance @ 2.5m



Performance @ 5m2



Performance @ 10m2



+ or - 3 Degrees heel

24 sq.m @ 2.5m2- no nulls


7.96 Seven nulls exceed 10

+ or - 9 Degrees heel


19 sq.m peak @ 2.5m2 no nulls

7.0 Seven nulls 28.5% (102.6)

+ or - 15 Degrees heel

10 sq.m peak

7.0 Seven nulls 45% (162 Degrees)

+ or - 20 Degrees heel

5 sq.m peak

Not tested 

Overall length

610 mm

595 mm


248 mm

240 mm

Distance between centres

EM-230 560 mm

EM230BR(24M2) 545 mm

545 mm


2100 gr

1879 gr

ISO 8729









The above test results were obtained at QinetiQ (DERA) in April/November 2001 and May 2002.
Echomax_Symmetrical_array Firdell_blipper_210-5_non_symmetrical_array
Echomax symmetrical array Firdell Blipper 210-5 non symmetrical array.
210-7 has two additional folds./td>

Echomax Active-X V Sea-Me RTE


Comparison below has been made with the Sea-Me RTE which has received very good yachting press reviews and is reputed to be the best selling RTE in the UK.
The Sea-Me RCS response data was obtained from the March 07 MAIB Performance investigation of marine radar reflectors following the Ouso disaster or the Sea-Me RTE manual. RCS response data source Active-X QinetiQ 13th March 09.

  Active-X Sea-Me
vertical position 111.36M2 42.57M2
10 degrees of heel 78.96M2 24.87M2
20 20.80M2 4.35M2
    The above figures are stated performance level (SPL)
Stand by current 15Ma 150Ma
External alarm facility 8A volt free contact 90Ma
5 radars painting 23mA 350mA*
10 radar painting 32mA  
Fuse Externally changeable fuse Integral fuse requires removal of control box from installation, removal of back plate to access fuse reassemble and re-installation
*SeaMe Manual but does not state number of radar painting which may be one or more


SeaMe only has a visual alarm as standard. Optional .90mA buzzer is around £40.00

Active-X has triple alarm facility as standard ie visual alarm, audible switchable alarm AND facility for 8A extension alarm.

Sept 09 PBO Active-X v SeaMe comparative sea trials - click here



Echomax Active-XS v SeaMe dual band


Sea-Me dualband

Echomax Active-XS

Radome size

698 x 50mm

685 x 40mm




Control box


92 x 51x38mm

Operating Voltage

12v dc

12v dc

Stand by current



Transmit current S band



Transmit current X band



Max SPL Zero deg S band



Max SPL Zero deg X band



Max SPL 20 deg S band



Max SPL 20 deg X band



Audible alarm (internal)

optional extra


External alarm facility


8A included

Visible LED

One LED both X and S

Two LED: Green X



@ Yellow S

*Source PBO August 2010 based on Sea-Me published QinetiQ linear charts
PBO August 2010 verdict Echomax Active-XS best buy, which reported

Number of reliable paints from 10 scans


No reflector



S band 6.9nm




X band 7.5nm




Unfortunately no tests at heel; to see September 09 sea trials heel data please press link to PBO sea trials in Active-X section



The figures below illustrate the 'TriLens' 5 inch diameter reflector, for which they claim 2 to 4M2-RCS, will be hidden in moderate clutter. They also state its performance is comparable to a 12 inch corner. Presumably they mean a 12 inch octahedral RCS-2.21M2. The RCS of a single twelve inch corner is 35M2.

In free space a 4M2 target's RCS at

0.5 n.mile - 4M2

1.5 n.mile - 0.8M2

2 n.mile - 0.25M2

In average precipitation at

0.5 n.mile - 2M2

1.5 n.mile - 0.3M2

2 n.mile - 0.08M2


'TriLens' reflector


The only 'TriLens' reflector, to meet ISO 8729, RORC and ORC regulations is their 20 inch diameter, which weighs in excess of 15 pounds, and costs US$699. Hardly suitable for yachts!!

Rosendal's (TriLens) web page compares their Mini-TriLens with a Mobri reflector found 'invisible' by West Marine.

The performance of other reflectors, given below, was examined by QinetiQ in the presence of independent observers.


peak 7.9 sq.m

4" Mobri

6.3 sq.m

16" Octahedral

6.3 sq.m (see diagram on web site re zero 18" Octahedral 10 sq.m response of 240 deg at + or - 15 deg)

18" Octahedral


50% 1 sq.m - 50% virtually zero - 4.7 lbs **

Blipper 210-7

6.3 sq.m - see full analysis on website

Cyclops 2

Two peaks 6 sq.m 300 degrees* 2.0m2 - 10.3 lbs

Cyclops 3

Two peaks 10.5 sq.m 280 degrees* 4.0m2 - 18.5 lbs

*Cyclops literature states 360 degrees

Sailing Today Sea Trials-September 09

Echomaster 153

Octahedral 320mm

Worked up to 4 nm

Stopped working 5 nm

Firdell Blipper 210-7

5 nm

6 nm

Tri-Lens Standard

6 nm

7 nm

Echomax EM230

7 nm



** Sea trials ceased at 7.3 nm due to number of radars transmitting in the area.

Visiball declined to submit a unit for test as invited.

Sailing Today Quote: 'We were unable to discern any real difference when heeled at 10 or 20 degrees'

** Latest literature we have seen accompanying Visiball states that "its computer generated surfaces ensures a consistent performance through 360 degrees and its special filling maximizes the reflection." Our tests at QinetiQ only gave a response of 1m2 for 195 degrees. The balance of 165 degrees being virtually zero response, as will be seen from the polar diagram shown to the left.

The following reflectors do NOT meet ISO 8729 and therefore do not satisfy SOLAS Chapter V, RORC or ORC requirements:

- Mini-Trilens, Trilens 5.25 Inch lens, Cyclops I & II, Mobri 50mm/100mm, Blipper 210-5/210-7, Pains Wessex SC4, all Octahedral based reflectors under 18 Inches Diameter, including Davis Octahedral, VisiBall.

If there is any doubt, ask the respective manufacturer for his test results.




OCTAHEDRAL REFLECTOR has been in use for over 65 years and the 18 inch forms the basis for the current ISO 8729 with a peak of 10M2. However its weakness is at 15 degrees of heel where the response falls to just .625M2 and at this angle there is no response over 140 degrees azimuth. The reflector in the catch rain position gives a good response but in many instances the reflectors are poorly positioned, particularly when installed in back stays, which renders them next to useless.


ISO 8729


For many years the 18" Octahedral reflector has been accepted as a benchmark by ISO/BSI and RORC. However, its serious failings are illustrated adjacent where, at 15 Degrees tilt, the octahedral gives no response over 140 Degrees.




stacked tube reflector

Probably one of the best selling reflectors as they are relatively cheap, easy to install and come in halyard mount or with deck mount bracket fitted. Refer to where they found these units to be 'invisible a useful addition to a stealth bomber'.


Active RTE

The advantages of RTE's are well known, both for their compactness and excellent performance both from the measured results at Funtington and during the live trial at Fraser on 1st. March 2002.

It is interesting to note that active RTE's were initially specifically excluded in the revision to ISO 8729, as, under certain conditions, a radar display can be violently disrupted due to the unwanted response of one or more radar target enhancers causing an inter-reaction leading to self oscillation of the RTE.

This phenomenon was observed in anechoic room experiments and field experiments undertaken inJapan.

Technology has moved on since the early days of the revisions to ISO 8729 so much so that a new standard ISO 8729-2 was drafted specifically for active devices encompassing tests to ensure self oscillation would be engineered out of a product before it could meet the revised standards performance criteria. The Active X passed this section of the tests with flying colours!

The reliable response of an RTE requires a continuous ships electric supply, component reliability, good design and quality build standard.

The “Active-X” with its miserly quiescent current drain and “cutting edge of technology” design and manufacture under ISO 9002 conditions goes a long way to overcoming the problems of products of an older and less efficient design.