Marine Navigation & Instruments - Autopilots

Next to choosing the boat itself, choosing the right autopilot can be one of the most important decisions a captain has to make. With a vast array of autopilot models and configurations to choose from, selecting the right autopilot can seem like a daunting task. Whether the need is for improved navigational accuracy, minimized fuel consumption or simply more enjoyable yachting, a properly configured autopilot provides precision steering under all sea conditions.

Use these three simple steps to help you choose your autopilot system:

Step 1: Select a Drive Unit - Know Your Boat and Your Steering System 

The first step in selecting an autopilot is selecting the proper autopilot drive unit for your vessel. Autopilot drive units, from simple cockpit tiller pilots to below deck, multi-station hydraulic systems, are available in an array of sizes and configurations to accommodate any steering type and vessel displacement. To properly select an autopilot you will need to find out the type of steering system your boat has. This may involve opening a few hatches and taking a peak at the gear, or this can be a simple as consulting your boat dealer or boat manufacturer.

Step 2: Select a Control System - sometimes called a Corepack 

Once you have determined the appropriate Drive Unit the next step is to select the brain and central nervous system of your autopilot. This "brain" or Corepack contains the course computers and fluxgate electronic compass that communicate your heading and commands to the Control Head and Drive Unit.

Step 3: Select a Control Head - the extra crewmember at your command.

The final step in the building of an autopilot system is selecting a Control Head. Here the decision is a matter of personal choice, since most control heads will offer similar levels of autopilot performance. Most autopilot control heads offer advanced features and intuitive operation. Choose the control head that best suits your needs.


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