Question: We know that the radar reflector standard ISO 8729-1999 was revised in 2010 - Are any of your products compliant with the standard ISO 8729-2010? - Do you have a certificate of compliance or test results?


In 2003 ECHOMAX obtained EU Marine equipment Directive (MED) (Wheel Mark) - SOLAS certification for the EM230/230BR - EM305PE based on ISO 8729-1997 which covered radar reflectors for vessels under 150GT in section A.1/4.53 and A.1/1.33 radar reflectors for life boats and rescue craft.

The adoption of IMO MSC.164 (78) in May 2004 resulted in new ISO standards being generated: ISO8729-1 (passive) and ISO8729-2 (Active) later becoming effective from 23rd July 2009. In accordance with the Directive we were required to remove the Ships Wheel Mark from our rotational tooling, products, literature, website etc.

Since no commercial passive reflector within the 0.5m3 and 5kg limitations will meet ISO 8729-1 this left a void in the market for the last three years causing both confusion and uncertainty regarding which reflector can be fitted to lifeboats, rescue craft etc.

In August 2012 the EU COSS (Committee on Safe Seas and the Prevention of Pollution from Ships), the arbitrators for the MED met to debate, amongst other subjects, the lack of available product to meet the requirements for a “radar reflector for lifeboats and rescue boats” (Directive Annex A1/1.33). For practical purpose this SOLAS requirement can only be fulfilled by a Passive device, and none are available!

As a result COSS reinstated the old ISO-8729-1997 for lifeboats and rescue craft, ONLY until such time as a passive reflector becomes available which meets ISO8729-1. Since there was no size restriction on the certification there was no point in replying to recertify our EM305PE as it was too large to use in life boats and rescue craft

We have since re-gained our Ships Wheel Mark for our EM230/230BR and the BABT -TUV Module B and D certificates and Certificate of Conformity are available for inspection if required.

Uncertainty still exists for RTE’s, now in Annex A1 (A.1/4.53) as our Active-XS exceeds the ISO8729-2 and we have the option of applying for a Ships Wheel Mark at a mere £15K+. However the MCA will not state what vessels, if any, must fit such a device making it impossible to invest so much without any guarantee of a return.
A QinetiQ Opinion that our Active-XS meets ISO 8729-2 is available for inspection

RTE v Passive radar responses

To put the RTE v Passive radar responses into perspective I give below a few response of popular passive radar reflectors in the vertical position i.e. O degrees - figures quoted are Stated Performance Levels

Davis Echomaster 0.37M2 : Large Trilens 3.36M2 : Standard Trilens 2.13M2 : Echomax EM230 4.70M2 ; Echomax EM305PE 10.00M2 : Echomax Active XS - X band 118.33M2 S band 15.75M2 - The EM230 and EM305PE are used by the US Navy.

Modern radars are fitted with ARPA which does not discriminate on echo strength and to avoid clutter an object will only appear on a radar screen if it sustains a hit rate of 50% or more. The high response of the Active XS will give you the best possible chance to be seen at both greater distances and especially in poor conditions.

An RTE fitted at mast top has a distant horizon of 25+/- miles so many users prefer to fit on the side rails, transom etc which reduces the horizon to 4/6 miles where decisions can be closely monitored to avoid the possibility of a collision at sea.. 
There is a 'suggested mounting options' drawing below which is based on combined customer feedback and our knowledge of where not to fit.

Hope that this covers all the issues.

Mounting options.JPG

Can you please advise which of your radar reflectors are suitable for either oil rigs or buoys and what certifications they have?

There are no published standards for buoys or oil rigs. The two current standards ISO standards for radar reflectors were written for vessels and allow for heel of +/- 15 degrees - ISO 8729-1997 and ISO 8729-1 passive and (2) Active allow for heel up to +/-10 degrees for motor vessels or +/-20 for masted vessels and these are not applicable to buoys whose focal plain cannot exceed 5 degrees otherwise the navigation lights will not respond or at their limit.

ISO ISO 8729-1997 covers only radar reflectors for use on life boats and rescue craft and ISO 8729-1/2 has a weight restriction of 5kg or volume of 0.5M3 as a heavier unit may capsize a masted vessel. No passive radar reflector meets ISO8729-1 within the stated restrictions.


Both the EM305PE- EM305FPMS and EM325 exceed the weights and volumes as they are designed for commercial use or large vessels, buoys, oil rigs or land-sea hazards.


Our Active XS RTE meets ISO 8729-2 but since the MCA or others will not make this a mandatory fit on passenger or coded vessels there is no point in spending the quoted £18K to have the product certified to this standard and obtain a Ships Wheel Mark certification.


We have obtained QinetiQ Opinion that the Active XS meets the response requirements of ISO8729-2 which is available upon request. 



Halyard mounting1.JPG
Mast shadow drawing.JPG

John Firth the inventor of the Echomax symmetrical array was adamant that no radar reflector should be fitted to a mast but suspended from the cross trees or halyard which virtually eliminates mast shadow and enables compensation at heel retaining virtually full response up to 20 degrees.

In MCA sea trials in January 02 at 5 miles plus the EM230 responded 100% to X band radar and 80% to S band radar. QinetiQ who carried out the tests stated that the S band results defied all the laws of physics as the 'expected norm' was 10-15% S - X band. At their request two further EM230 were sent to the Anechoic Chamber which confirmed the sea trial results. The high S band response was attributed to John Firths 'Glint Effect' which is a reaction of the phases as the Echomax array excites in real sea conditions, rather like the mirror on the hill scenario

Mast Shadow.JPG