How Does a Vessel’s Autopilot System Operate?

Marine Autopilot Systems have a ton of advantages for vessels of all sizes. Computerized Autopilots can improve safety at sea, help conserve fuel and make the voyage more convenient for the Captain & Crew. Marine Autopilots can also assist in stabilizing the vessel in moderate winds and currents.

At Captain's Marine Supply, we have a large variety of Marine Electronics & Accessories from leading marine manufacturers, including Autopilot Systems. This article explains how Marine Autopilot Systems function.

The Drive Unit Controls the Rudder Position:

The Drive unit is the “Mechanical Component” of the Marine Autopilot that controls the position of the rudder. The Control Unit is interfaced with the Gyro Compass & the Drive Unit, which keeps the boat headed on a given course. Three types of Steering Mechanisms are used in Marine Autopilots. They are either Linear, Rotary, or Hydraulic, in design. Linear steering is the simplest, most common, and ideal for small to medium-sized vessels.

The Compass Notes the Direction:

Strong winds and currents can easily push a vessel off course. Captains have to bring vessels back on course from the helm. Marine Autopilot Systems use a highly responsive Gyro Compass. This type of compass use gyroscopes instead of the earth's magnetic field. 

The Gyro Compass constantly measures the direction the vessel is heading & this data is being constantly sent to the Control Unit when the system is engaged.

The Control Unit Handles It All:

The Control Unit receives constant data from the Gyro Compass & then transmits that data to the Drive Unit, which in turn adjusts the Rudder Position to the designated course to steer. The Control Unit is the heart of the system.  


Photograph taken from inside a boat


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Captain Marine Supply has everything you need for your vessel. We have marine electronic systems such as Marine Autopilot Systems from some of the world's most advanced marine manufacturers. Now you can shop marine antennas, marine radios, fishing reels, boat propellers, boat trailer parts, fishfinders, and everything else you want for your boat online. 

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