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ContinuousWave: Small Boat Electrical
Lowrance Auto-pilot for HDS
|Author||Topic: Lowrance Auto-pilot for HDS|
posted 07-17-2014 09:08 AM ET (US)
Lowrance are adding to the their HDS GEN2 and HDS GEN2 TOUCH series of chart plotter and SONAR products a new auto-pilot feature they call SMARTSTEER. The SmartSteer feature will be incorporated in the HDS software version 3.5, to be released in September 2014.
SmartSteer will permit control of the new Lowrance auto-pilot system called OUTBOARD PILOT, to be available in November 2014. Outboard Pilot will be implemented in two forms, one for hydraulic steering systems, and one for mechanical cable steering systems. These systems are designed to control single outboard engine boats of less than 30-feet length. The system will not use an electro-mechanical rudder position sensor, but instead will use Virtual Rudder Feedback.
The Outboard Pilot will consist of the following bundled components:
--the NAC-1 Autopilot Computer, containing the steering computer and electronics for the drive unit motor;
--the POINT-1 heading sensor and GPS receiver;
--a dedicated Auot/Standby button to control auto-pilot mode.
For hydraulic steering systems, the above are bundled with:
--the PUMP-1 hydraulic pump, a 0.8-liter reversible hydraulic pump that is compatible with SeaStar steering systems, and can pump up to 14 cubic-inches. MSRP for this system is $999.
For mechanical cable steering systems, the bundle components are used with:
--the HELM-1 drive unit, to replace the manual helm mechanical cable steering, and is compatible with Morse 290, 30411, and Teleflex SSC52 cables. MSRP for this system is $1,899.
The SmartSteer software that will provide the user interface to the Outboard Pilot system will be included in the HDS software at no additional charge.
Lowrance says the system will be simple to install with wiring to be mostly connection of various plug and socket connectors. System configuration is assisted by a software guide.
The Outboard Pilot and SmartSteer will allow auto-piloting to a heading, a waypoint, a route, or to a cursor location. Saved trails can be converted to routes, and this will allow the auto-pilot to retrace a previous trail or path. The software will also provide six pre-configured patterns of turns to use in trolling or fishing.
The SmartSteer software feature will only be available in the HDS Gen2 or HDS Gen2 Touch products.
posted 07-17-2014 09:29 AM ET (US)
The $999 price of the outboard hydraulic steering system puts the Outboard Pilot and SmartSteer system at a very attractive price point. For comparison, the other NAVICO brand, SIMRAD, offers an outboard engine auto-pilot system called the AP2403 VRF package that retails at $2,800. The AP2403 includes a dedicated display-controller device. See
GARMIN has an outboard auto-pilot system, the GHP 10, which sells for about $2,000. This includes a dedicated control/display device. The helm pump for hydraulic steering is an addition $1,000.
posted 07-17-2014 10:13 AM ET (US)
I find it somewhat curious that the auto-pilot systems from Lowrance will use the POINT-1 heading sensor and GPS receiver. When the POINT-1 was first introduced, Lowrance specifically mentioned it was not intended for use with auto-pilots. Apparently the NAC-1 auto-pilot computer is configured to work with the POINT-1 as its heading sensor and GPS receiver.
posted 07-17-2014 10:40 AM ET (US)
The Simrad brand of the Navico line has include the autopilot function for a couple of years. It looks like they are now starting to move that functionality to their Lowrance line.
The Simrad NSS series will work with the Electric Power Steering (like the E-TEC Gen2 and Optimus EPS) with a simple interface box to connect to the steering's CANBUS. I wonder if the Lowrance will also have this feature?
posted 07-18-2014 08:08 AM ET (US)
In terms of price, the Lowrance Outboard Pilot is quite a breakthrough. The hydraulic steering system consists of:
--the navigation computer and motor control unit
--the heading sensor and rate compass
--a simple control panel ON-OFF switch
--the user interface provided by the associated chart plotter
--the hydraulic pump to connect to the steering
This entire system is only $999.
Looking at the Simrad system, their helm pump (RPU80) alone is $857, and the rate compass (RC42) is $680. The navigation computer (AC12) is about $1060. It is not clear to me that you could assemble an autopilot system without including the dedicated control panel, the AP24, about $450. Even if you could put together a Simrad system without the dedicated user interface device and instead just use a Simrad chart plotter as the user interface, buying the pump, rate compass, and the navigation computer would total almost $2,600. That is considerably more (2.6-times) than the Lowrance Outboard Pilot.
It appears that the Outboard Pilot is aimed as smaller boats. Lowrance says it is for single engine boats of less than 30-feet. That segment covers a lot of boats used by inland fishermen.
posted 08-29-2014 09:11 AM ET (US)
According to a press release from Lowrance, the cable-steering autopilot bundle price is now $1,499.
The Lowrance website continues to show the price as $1,899.
posted 01-03-2015 10:09 AM ET (US)
Lowrance has a recorded presentation for their OUTBOARD AUTOPILOT being operated and controlled throught their new SMARTSTEER software for HDS Gen-2. The demonstration shows mostly features for fishing:
posted 01-04-2015 07:53 PM ET (US)
It looks like a pretty nice unit for the money. Too bad it's not available until March.
Re the $900 price difference between the cable steering unit and the hydraulic steering unit:
Why would anyone in their right mind buy the cable unit, when for nearly the same amount you could replace the cable with hydraulic steering AND purchase hydraulic pilot?
posted 01-07-2015 09:11 AM ET (US)
The price of the hydraulic auto pilot package is very attractive. Consider that it includes a heading sensor (POINT-1) that normally sells for $200. This suggests the rest of the components are only $800. That is an amazing price for the package.
posted 01-07-2015 09:38 AM ET (US)
I was asking myself why on earth I would want an auto-pilot on my 19 foot and smaller boats. My courses are usually repeats and use old chicken tracks on the chart plotter to provide steering input. After thinking about it for a day or two I recalled the last long day of fishing on my Montauk with hydraulic steering. On the long cruise back to the ramp I began to experience a lot of very uncomfortable cramps in my hands. Then I recalled that it was not unusual to experience the cramps. Some cramping is probably attributable to minor dehydration but I'm sure fatigue is also a factor. Perhaps an auto-pilot on a small boat is not silly at all.
posted 01-07-2015 10:04 AM ET (US)
""The price of the hydraulic auto pilot package is very attractive. Consider that it includes a heading sensor (POINT-1) that normally sells for $200. This suggests the rest of the components are only $800. That is an amazing price for the package.""
With all the talk on the BBC website about the Point 1 GPS receiver and the advantages it provides, I was going to add one to my boat. But since the Point 1 comes with the auto pilot, I'm foregoing it and will buy the autopilot instead and get the Point 1 with the autopilot.
Lowrance would probably be well served to offer the option to buy the autopilot WITHOUT the Point 1 for those who have already purchased the Point 1.
posted 01-08-2015 03:40 PM ET (US)
I was thinking along those same lines. A $999 autopilot would be a nice addition of my boat, too. The only problem for me: I don't have a compatible steering cylinder. Mine is a side-mount cylinder and is unbalanced. I would have to first convert the hydraulic steering to balanced. It might be cheaper to buy a new E-TEC GEN-2.
posted 01-08-2015 04:31 PM ET (US)
Good thinking Jim. A new computer calls for a new engine and new diagnostic software. Of course with an E-TEC GEN2 you'd never need the software, but you'd have it just in case.
posted 01-09-2015 01:34 PM ET (US)
Butch--as you know, buying a new outboard engine to replace one that is working just fine is a completely irrational decision. You need to find rationalizations to justify it.
Back to the Lowrance auto-pilot: it appears you need the HDS Gen-2 device to run the SMARTSTEER application. It is not clear to me if the auto-pilot can operate autonomously.
A new HDS would be another element to add for me. Maybe I won't be getting the auto-pilot after all.
posted 01-10-2015 12:41 PM ET (US)
After reviewing more Lowrance literature, I found this statement:
From that I infer that without being "connected" (via a NMEA-2000 network) with the appropriate Lowrance chart plotter having the SMARTSTEER software application, the Lowrance OUTBOARD PILOT autopilot is not able to perform the operations necessary, that is, steer to a waypoint, steer along a route, steer in a turn pattern, or hold a constant heading.
posted 03-04-2015 07:44 PM ET (US)
[Posted an article about the price of the Lowrance Outboard Auto Pilot, but on further investigation the information was not very reliable and came from a website known for deceptive marketing practices. The article has been removed for those reasons--jimh]
posted 03-05-2015 06:19 AM ET (US)
The Lowrance website still has the OUTBOARD PILOT price at $999 today. Note that the OUTBOARD PILOT only works with certain models of Lowrance HDS multi-function displays because the HDS display must be able to run the SmartSteer application. The HDS must be at least a Gen2 model or newer.
posted 03-12-2015 01:12 PM ET (US)
An early adopter of the Lowrance OUTBOARD PILOT has received the device from his vendor. Surprisingly, there was a great deal of gear included with the auto pilot. The box contained:
--NAC-1 Autopilot computer and power cord
--Electro-hydraulic PUMP-1 assembly with integral control cable
--Electrical switch for AUTO-STANDBY
--POINT-1 GNSS receiver and heading sensor with NMEA-2000 interface
--package of necessary hydraulic fittings, tee-connectors, and check valves
--(2) hydraulic hoses
--(1) hydraulic fluid bottle
This was all anticipated to be included. The surprise (for me to read) was the box also contained:
--NMEA-2000 four-port connection block
--(2) NMEA-2000 120-Ohm terminators (1-Male, 1-Female)
--MMEA-2000 network power cord with fuse
--(3) NMEA-2000 Extension cables (various lengths)
The bundle seems to include all the components for assembling a NMEA-2000 network and providing power to it. The inclusion of these components adds about $100 in value to the bundle. The early adopter reported he paid a retail price of $880, including the cost of shipment. This auto pilot is a bargain.
posted 03-14-2015 08:50 PM ET (US)
I find it interesting that the mechanical steering version costs twice as much as the hydraulic one. Looking at "What's in the Box" for both units the only difference is the helm unit. I find it hard to believe that the mechanical helm costs $1.000 more than the hydraulic one.
posted 03-15-2015 09:37 AM ET (US)
In the mechanical helm there must be some sort of clutch arrangement that permits the auto-pilot to take over the helm in the auto pilot mode, and also release it for the operator's input. That mechanism may be more complicated than the simple check valves of the hydraulic system's helm pump. The auto-pilot's mechanical helm may replace the existing mechanical helm, whereas the hydraulic auto pilot just splices into the existing hydraulic system. That may explain the significant difference in cost. The cost is so much less for the hydraulic auto-pilot that one could upgrade their boat to hydraulic steering and not spent any more than the cost of the mechanical auto pilot.
posted 03-15-2015 09:30 PM ET (US)
I still don't see what can bump the price up by $1000. A complete NFB steering system is $310, max. I have one that's 11 years old on my '78 Outrage and it's wonderful.
So, other than a servo motor added to the standard NFB system, what can cost so much?
posted 03-28-2015 10:54 AM ET (US)
I have [a Lowrance OUTBOARD PILOT] in the basement which I am preparing to install. My boat has three Lowrance HDS units, all GEN-1, and if I can use [the auto pilot] to just to hold a course without [replacing] one of the HDS units [with a GEN-2 HDS] I think I would be more than happy for now. Any information out there [about the possibility to use the Lowrance OUTBOARD PILOT without being controlled by a Lowrance HDS GEN-2]?
posted 03-28-2015 11:37 AM ET (US)
Maybe you can get a reply from Lowrance technical support for this question.
posted 03-28-2015 11:45 AM ET (US)
Also in regard to the need to have an HDS unit to operate the OUTBOARD PILOT, I have read some comments, from usually well-informed but unofficial sources, that the requirement to have an HDS GEN-2 unit for control means just that, a GEN-2, and not a GEN-3. If the usually well-informed but unofficial sources are correct, LOWRANCE apparently has not developed the SMARTSTEER application for their newest GEN-3 HDS devices. I anticipate that Lowrance will get this done, but, at the moment, the OUTBOARD PILOT might only work with an HDS GEN-2. The Lowrance website says, however, that the HDS GEN-3 will work with the Outboard Pilot. Compare at http://www.lowrance.com/en-US/Products/HDS-Gen3/. This might be a bit of a moving target.
posted 04-28-2015 09:10 AM ET (US)
Based on some recent first-hand reports of boaters who have the Lowrance OUTBOARD PILOT, it appears that the development of the SmartSteer software necessary to control the auto-pilot is still limited to only GEN2 models, and, apparently even more limiting, to only non-Touch GEN2 HDS units. The GEN2 Touch and GEN3 HDS devices do not have a software release available that provides for use with the OUTBOARD PILOT auto-pilot product.
Various accounts from individuals cite Lowrance as indicating the software update necessary for the touch-screen models is being developed and will be available in the near future, perhaps as soon as "the end of April" or as late as "early June."
posted 04-28-2015 09:18 AM ET (US)
More information about the OUTBOARD PILOT hardware and the companion SMARTSTEER software is provided by Lowrance in recent literature about the software update package released for the HDS GEN2 non-touch devices. See:
I notice in this literature the GNSS sensor is referred to as a POINT-1AP device, rather than just a POINT-1. This makes me wonder if the hardware supplied with the OUTBOARD PILOT includes a GNSS receiver called the POINT-1AP, and, further, if that device is different in some way from the standard product called the POINT-1.
posted 04-29-2015 08:26 AM ET (US)
Re the GNSS antenna that Lowrance calls the POINT-1 and a similar device Lowrance calls the POINT-1AP: there is at least one anecdotal report that suggests a Lowrance technical support representative has indicated the device marked POINT-1AP is different from the POINT-1, and further indicated that only the device POINT-1AP is suitable for use with the OUTBOARD PILOT and SMARTSTEER auto-pilot equipment.
posted 05-06-2015 08:54 AM ET (US)
We have recently installed the Lowrance outboard hydraulic autopilot on our Parker 2320sl. We have a Lowrance Gen2 Touch. Here are the problems we experienced:
--directions are horrible; try finding the installation or operators manuals for the autopilot on the Lowrance webstie; they don't exist;
--no information in the installation manual on how to purge the autopilot pump;
--the standby switch has no color coded diagram for wiring into the NAC-1; we blew fuses because a Lowrance tech gave us incorrect wiring information;
--the autopilot came with a new POINT-1 ANTENNA. No where in the instructions does it indicate if you are required to install this antenna in addition to the one that is already on the boat used as a heading sensor and GPS receiver;
--many calls were placed to the Lowrance techinical group. We received conflicting information and on occasion incorrect information. We still are waiting for a response on whether two Point-1 antennas or just one are required to operate the [chart plotter] and auto pilot.
--lastly, as of this writing, Lowrance does not have the computer program availalbe to operate the system.
Yes we are frustrated and are disappointed Lowrance would put out a product they can't support.
posted 05-06-2015 10:57 AM ET (US)
Thanks for the comments on the Lowrance OUTBOARD PILOT. The report from TAVARUA1 tends to confirm my earlier speculation that a new model of GNSS receiver and heading sensor, called the POINT-1AP, is now being manufactured by Lowrance for the particular purpose of operating with the OUTBOARD PILOT and SmartSteer software.
I have to agree with TAVARUA1's observations about the variation in quality of the information provided from Lowrance's technical support services. The reliability and accuracy of the advice provided seems to vary from support person to support person.
Apparently the rumor that a software update to allow HDS Gen2 Touch devices to be used with the OUTBOARD PILOT would be available "by the end of April" was not accurate.
posted 05-09-2015 12:09 AM ET (US)
Regarding the instructions furnished by Lowrance with the OUTBOARD PILOT, and whether or not they are suitable for performing the installation, you can decide for yourself by viewing the instructions. See
The instruction include a section called "MOUNTING: Bleeding" that describes the hydraulic system bleeding to be performed for the pump unit, and illustrations are included.
The instructions are clear about installing the POINT-1 included with the OUTBOARD PILOT.
Some unofficial web comments now say that Lowrance will release the new software necessary for the Gen2 Touch HDS devices in less than a week, perhaps on May 13, 2105.
The instructions are terse and rely heavily on simple graphics and pictorial diagrams to convey information. Not having undertaken the task of installing an hydraulic version of the OUTBOARD PILOT myself, I can only speculate if the instructions provided would be sufficient: I think they would.
The only parts of the installation that would worry me are:
--the hydraulic lines, and bleeding the entire system; that task can be tedious and difficult;
--the wiring of some unspecifed device only denoted as "OPTIONAL": it is not clearly identified anywhere I could find. Maybe it is the Stand-By switch.
The PDF document is difficult to use because the page layout is for printing on a giant sheet of paper. This makes the scrolling and paging of the document very awkward on a computer monitor.
posted 05-09-2015 08:22 AM ET (US)
I have the hydraulic OUTBOARD PILOT partially installed. The optional device is the power feed for the NMEA 2000 network (if there is no other power source on the network). I called tech support yesterday looking for a software release date and the only thing they said is it will be available this quarter, by end of June. Also of note is that they're working on better documentation for installation and user manual. There is no user manual yet, at least in my package.
Aside from the software and documentation deficiencies, there were a lot of cables of various lengths included in the kit, enough to satisfy nearly any installation without having to buy additional hardware.
posted 05-09-2015 08:35 AM ET (US)
The instructions show a feed to the NMEA-2000 network using the usual network T-connector and a fused cable. The device I refer to that is marked OPTIONAL is connected to a cable coming from the NAC-1 controller with BLUE and YELLOW conductors. What information causes you to think the OPTIONAL device is part of a feed of power to a network?
Here is the diagram I refer to:
posted 05-09-2015 02:39 PM ET (US)
Excuse me, that's the pushbutton to engage/disengage the autopilot. And the wires are NOT color coded to match. Hence a previous poster was blowing fuses because he couldn't figure out which wires were supposed to go together.
posted 05-14-2015 12:11 PM ET (US)
Can you give more details about the discrepancy in the wire insulation colors as shown in the literature compared to the actual components?
posted 05-14-2015 09:19 PM ET (US)
The wires coming from the push button switch match the diagram, but the wires that they connect to are not the same colors. I would have to assume that how they are connected makes no difference as it only serves to either momentarily break or make a connection where polarity is not a concern. The installation is rather straightforward, mostly plug and play.
The POINT-1AP that comes with the Autopilot can also serve as a heading sensor for overlaying radar on the chart plotter.
Due to the delay waiting for parts from Honda, the lack of software from Lowrance isn't such a big deal as I was planning to wait until the re-power to try it and avoid having to bleed the entire steering system twice. It's also given me an excuse to add a radar arch to the boat next week while I'm waiting for parts from Honda and software from Lowrance.
posted 05-16-2015 03:50 PM ET (US)
The Lowrance technical staff just forwarded this regarding the POINT 1 antenna and autopilot
"You will need the Point-1 antenna to do the Radar overlays since the Point-1 AP that comes with the Autopilot autoSteer is designed strictly for the autopilot and does not provide radar overlay capabilities."
So, you will need two Point 1 antennas - the Point 1-AP for the autopilot and the Point 1 for the radar overlays.
I wish Lowrance would have indicated the difference in the instructions as we assumed the Point 1-AP would do both radar and autopilot - now we have to install an additional Point 1 antenna which is a lot of work when you have a tuna tower.
Thanks for your time.
posted 06-04-2015 09:21 PM ET (US)
"You will need the Point-1 antenna to do the Radar overlays since the Point-1 AP that comes with the Autopilot autoSteer is designed strictly for the autopilot and does not provide radar overlay capabilities."
Wow, I just called 2 weeks ago and was told the Point 1-AP WILL do the overlays. Lowrance tech support strikes out again!!
PS- The long-awaited 4.5 software that controls the autopilot has FINALLY been released.
posted 06-05-2015 04:36 PM ET (US)
The release of new software for the Lowrance OUTBOARD PILOT control by HDS display is described in
The importance of this release is summarized by Lowrance:
This is too important to be a post-script, but many thanks for mentioning it. For more on the software update, see
posted 06-07-2015 08:31 PM ET (US)
I Finished installing and bleeding the autopilot yesterday. Followed the directions to a T and damned if the autopilot symbol would show up anywhere under settings. So I gave up and went for a ride late in the day. Upon getting back, played with the HDS12T some more and found a software switch buried several screens deep that said "enable autopilot", never once mentioned in any literature or their commissioning video. Low and behold, the autopilot symbol showed up where it was supposed to. I was able to calibrate the virtual feedback rudder indicator, but nothing else seems to work. Tried it several times to no avail. Have to go down sometime this week and hopefully get a Lowrance technician on the phone that knows something about it. I'm thinking a hard reset but first need to save all my settings, waypoints, and routes.
posted 06-06-2015 10:20 PM ET (US)
[This article was posted several times as an independent thread, but it belongs in this discussion. I have moved it here. Please do not start new threads on a topic which is actively being discussed, such as this 38-article thread was discussing this product--jimh]
At the end of April, I installed a new Lowrance [OUTBOARD PILOT with the] small boat hydraulic pack. I was replacing an old Navico PH500 powerpilot that was installed new in my 1997 Aquasport 225 Explorer.
I was hoping to control [the Lowrance OUTBOARD PILOT] with a Lowrance HDS-5 Elite that I bought new last season. After I called Lowrance for help, I bought a new Lowrance HDS-7 Gen2 Touch to control the pilot. I have been waiting until today to get the new software so I could actually use the pilot. [The software] was released [recently], and I installed it.
It is raining buckets here today so I only was able to do what I could at the dock. [The OUTBOARD PILOT] does now move the motor and in the right direction. The pump is very quiet. I am anxious to see how this works on a fishing trip. I did today have to finish bleeding the hydraulic side after I was able to get the pump to run.
I found it pretty disturbing that Lowrance sold me equipment that did not have the operating software. Until now the [OUTBOARD PILOT] was useless. I have used Lowrance equipment exclusively until now but will definitely have to do more research before I buy any new marine electronics.--Sudsy
posted 06-10-2015 08:12 AM ET (US)
I am confused about your device you call an "HDS-5 Elite." I don't believe there is such a product. You seem to have conjoined two product names: the HDS-5 and the ELITE-5. I do not believe you could have had a reasonable expectation that a newly introduced product, the OUTBOARD PILOT, would be compatible with a product that never existed. This seems especially unlikely because the OUTBOARD PILOT was never said to be compatible with any of the first generation HDS devices, like an HDS-5, or with any of the ELITE devices, like an ELITE-5.
From what I can read from Lowrance, the OUTBOARD PILOT was intended to be able to be controlled by Lowrance HDS Gen2 and HDS Gen2 Touch chart plotters. Lowrance published a video on August 11, 2104 that said the new OUTBOARD PILOT could be controlled by a Lowrance HDS Gen2 or Gen2 Touch display. See
The Lowrance HDS Gen2 Touch displays required software update version 4.5 which was released around June 5, 2015. Only HDS Gen2 Touch displays updated to that software release can control the OUTBOARD PILOT. The HDS Gen2 displays—the non-touch-screen devices—could control the OUTBOARD PILOT when updated with software released earlier.
I look forward to hearing about the performance of the Lowrance OUTBOARD PILOT as installed on your boat when you have had a month or so to actually use the device on your boat as an auto-pilot in a variety of sea conditions.
The OUTBOARD PILOT was not compatible with the particular Lowrance model display you have until the Version 4.5 software was released, but the product was compatible and worked with other HDS displays before June 5, 2015.
The nature of the Lowrance OUTBOARD PILOT, and part of what makes its low price possible, is the necessity of controlling it with a Lowrance HDS display of particular type and with particular software. The OUTBOARD PILOT is not a stand-alone auto-pilot device. It must be integrated with a display with special software. Lowrance has been working to provide the necessary updated software to permit the OUTBOARD PILOT to be controlled by three different levels of HDS display:
--the HDS Gen2 displays
--the HDS Gen2 Touch displays
--the HDS Gen3 displays
Not all of those three categories of Lowrance displays were available with the required software until now. It is unfortunate that for the particular model of HDS display you purchased with the intention of using it with the OUTBOARD PILOT there was a delay of a month or two in the release of the software. Whether or not this is justifiable cause for abandonment of Lowrance as a supplier of electronic devices for a small boat is something individuals will have to decide. I'd much rather hear about the actual performance of the Lowrance OUTBOARD PILOT when controlled by a Lowrance HDS Gen2 Touch using Version 4.5 software than to hear about the degree of disturbance in an individual customer caused by the delay in the use of the device due to waiting for software to be released.
posted 06-10-2015 08:21 AM ET (US)
From what I can tell, there are not too many other choices in the marketplace of auto-pilot devices for outboard engines at a price point of under $900 that are compatible with any Lowrance display of any type. To continually harangue Lowrance about a delay of a month or two in release of software for a subset of their display models is looking back at events of the past that cannot be changed. I'd rather hear about outcomes in the future for the OUTBOARD PILOT, such as how it actually works as an auto-pilot.
I have a Lowrance HDS display, and there apparently are no plans at all to provide software updates for my HDS display to be used with the OUTBOARD PILOT. I am not upset about his. I have an obsolete model of the HDS series, and I don't have an expectation that Lowrance should provide updates in software for legacy models. There is a reasonable expectation that my obsolete HDS is probably not suitable for controlling an auto-pilot due to limitations in its processing power and speed of execution.
I look forward to hearing about outcomes from actually using the Lowrance OUTBOARD PILOT.
posted 06-10-2015 09:16 PM ET (US)
I got my Lowrance hydraulic autopilot working yesterday after a 2.5 hour call to Lowrance (only 47 calls in front of me!). The very last thing they had me try was "restore defaults " and that was the ticket. I wasn't able to test it, but I'm making a Montauk run this weekend and will report back.
posted 06-13-2015 09:27 AM ET (US)
Re using Point 1 AP for radar overlay- I have an email from Three Rivers Marine Electronics stating that they "just got off the phone with Lowrance and that indeed the AP point 1 will work for radar overlay".
I wish Lowrance would get their $hit together and provide reliable information regarding their products.
posted 06-13-2015 01:49 PM ET (US)
With any device, there are many levels of understanding:
--what the engineers designed it to do
--what the production department built it to do
--what marketing hoped it would do
--what sales told the customers it would do
--what tech support thinks it can do
--what it actually does
--what the lawyers limited it to do to avoid liability
posted 06-21-2015 10:19 AM ET (US)
I was able to give [the Lowrance OUTBOARD PILOT] a real workout yesterday on a run [to Montauk, New York,] and have to say that I couldn't be happier with the results. Conditions were pretty snotty both running to and coming back. On the way out seas were one-to-two-feet [high] and nearly head-on. I was able to run 28-MPH most of the way out. The auto pilot followed the course accurately and with little deviation. I tried increasing the steering response to "4" and "5" [apparently some sort of metric in the control system of the OUTBOARD PILOT--jimh], but found the default setting at "3" was the best with less hunting and oversteer than the higher settings. The pump is very quiet and can only be heard when the engine is at idle--quite a feat considering how quiet the Honda 250 is.
Using just the STANDY=BY button to hold a heading works well, but, even after calibrating the heading sensor twice, the heading seems to differ from the COG by around 15-degrees. With the HDS set as "heading up", the course is always canted at a 15-degree-angle. The heading seems to match the compass reading pretty much dead on. Magnetic versus true maybe? I may try the offset feature to see if it corrects it.
On the way back, we had a confused following sea and some of the Montauk rips had three-to-four-foot-high waves. With trim tabs fully extended and motor tucked all the way in, I was able to run at 15-MPH on plane through the slop. Again, the autopilot kept us on a straight and true course in spite of the waves trying to toss us in all directions and almost burying the bow several times.
This 23 Walkaround (and 24 Outrage) hull is AWESOME, but that's for another thread.
posted 06-27-2015 07:50 AM ET (US)
Many thanks for the first-hand report about the operation of the Lowrance OUTBOARD PILOT. I appreciate hearing about the actual outcome of the installation and its use, rather than hearing complaints about the delay in some software update being posted.
posted 07-18-2015 01:36 PM ET (US)
Lowrance gives the actual set-up and operating instructions for their OUTBOARD PILOT autopilot as part of the documentation for the software updates to the various HDS display devices that can be used to run the autopilot. This makes sense because the user interface is slightly different on the three different displays.
For the HDS GEN-2 display, the instruction are included with the literature at
For the HDS GEN-2 TOUCH displays, the instruction are included with the literature at
And for the HDS GEN3 displays, the instructions are included with the literature at
The instructions that come in the box with actual autopilot components appear to be of the new format being seen in many products these days--a large single sheet of paper with minimal text and lots of little drawings with pictograms instead of written instructions.
The AUTO-STDBY switch now has its own instructions. This new literature appears to resolve the problem mentioned above regarding the wire color coding not being as shown in the directions.
posted 07-26-2015 08:23 AM ET (US)
Re the Point1 AP - it definitely can be used to overlay the radar on the chart plotter. Three Rivers Marine was correct, Lowrance tech support provided bogus information.
posted 08-23-2015 09:42 PM ET (US)
I have been researching the Lowrance OUTBOARD PILOT and considering installing one on my boat. Currently I have a HDS-12 Gen-2, Lowrance 3G radar and RC42 rate compass (for radar overlay) installed.
I was a bit confused by Lowrance's installation instructions. They indicate installation of the RC42 rate compass (see here: http://www.lowrance.com/Root/Lowrance-Documents/US/OutboardPilot-HydraulicPack_IG_988-10717-002_w.pdf ) However, it states that the Point-1 antenna is a GPS receiver and heading sensor (and as far as I understand the RC42 is not included in the Outboard Pilot kit).
I put a call in to Lowrance tech support and they told me that the RC42 is more accurate than the Point-1 and it could be used IN PLACE of the Point 1.
Does anyone know if this this accurate information? Or will I still need to install the Point-1 in addition to my existing RC42? According to the Lowrance spec sheet, the Point 1 has a refresh rate of up to 10-Hz, and heading accuracy of plus-minus 3 degrees. (http://www.lowrance.com/Root/Lowrance-Documents/GPS-Compass_IG_EN_988-10439-002_w.pdf)
I would speculate that the Autopilot will still require the Point-1 for GPS position, or would the internal HDS GPS receiver satisfy that? Does anyone know the refresh rate of the built-in GPS on the HDS units?
Interestingly (as mentioned earlier) the Point-1 spec sheet still indicates that it is not suitable for Autopilot or MARPA.
The RC42 sheet specifies accuracy of plus-minus 3 degrees and a refresh rate of 20-Hz when selected as the heading sensor. (See http://www.simrad-yachting.com/Root/Installation%20Manual/SimradYachting/English/RC42N_IM_EN_988-10278-001.pdf)
Further, I am a little peeved to find out that I could have purchased the Point-1 GPS receiver and heading sensor for $250 and established chart radar overlay instead of spending $550 for the RC42!
Some more pertinent info: http://www.lowrance.com/Global/Lowrance/Documents/Support/HDS_GEN2_RTM4_ADD_EN_988-10882-001_w.pdf
posted 08-24-2015 09:16 AM ET (US)
My inferences based on the published data from the manufacturers:
--the Simrad RC42 is a better heading sensor than the heading sensor portion of the Lowrance POINT-1
--the GPS receiver in an Lowrance HDS-12 Gen-2 [Touch] has an update rate of 5-Hz
--the GPS receiver in a Lowrance POINT-1 has an update rate of 10-Hz.
--the Simrad RC42 does not contain a GPS receiver
--the RC42 is not included in the bundle of components for the OUTBOARD PILOT. See the listing of included components in the first article in this thread.
--the Lowrance POINT-1 is included as part of the bundle of components in the OUTBOARD PILOT
If you buy an OUTBOARD PILOT, at that point, you could install the auto pilot components but omit the POINT-1, and test the auto pilot functionality with a configuration using your existing RC42 heading sensor and existing GPS receiver in the HDS-12. Here I am assuming the OUTBOARD PILOT and NAC-1 can be configured in that manner.
If there were any problems in configuration or operation of the OUTBOARD PILOT and NAC-1 using the existing RC42 and HDS-12 sources, you could install the POINT-1 heading sensor and GPS receiver that was included in the bundle.
I presume that sometime after you purchased a Simrad RC42 heading sensor and rate compass Lowrance introduced the POINT-1 heading sensor with a lower price and with the inclusion of a GPS receiver. I don't know that there was any way to foresee that happening. Even if the POINT-1 were already available, and you had bought the POINT-1 to use to overlay the RADAR on the chart plotter presentation, you would still be buying and paying for another POINT-1 when you bought the OUTBOARD PILOT bundle.
posted 08-24-2015 10:28 AM ET (US)
VIPER--following installation and configuration of the OUTBOARD PILOT auto pilot you are considering purchasing, and if it occurs that the RC42 Rate Compass and heading sensor are no longer needed, I think you will find that the Simrad RC42 could quite easily be sold. In that way you may be able to recover some of the costs associated with the Lowrance OUTBOARD PILOT, if you actually choose to purchase and install one.
If you actually do purchase an OUTBOARD PILOT and install it on your boat, please let us know how it performs and with which components you have configured it. This discussion has a great deal of interest to hear actual first-hand results in the installation and use of the Lowrance OUTBOARD PILOT.
While accounts of the processes used to make a decision to purchase, the satisfaction obtained from contact with Lowrance customer support, the clarity and lucidity of the installation instructions, and the relative time when various components included in the bundle came to market and were available are interesting sidebar discussions, the information that is most important to this discussion is the first-hand direct accounts of how the Lowrance OUTBOARD PILOT is working in actual use. I look forward to hearing more on that topic.
posted 08-24-2015 04:35 PM ET (US)
Where did you find the info on the HDS-12 Gen 2 regarding a 5Hz refresh rate? I assumed it was max of 1 Hz given that the max refresh rate you can specify in the settings is 1 / second..
I went ahead and purchased an Outboard Pilot. I am planning to install the components, less the point-1 tomorrow. I will be testing it's operation this weekend. I will report back my findings.
posted 08-24-2015 05:22 PM ET (US)
Lowrance's website specifications for the HDS-12 GEN-2 Touch say 5-Hz. Compare at
Maybe the HDS-12 GEN-2 (keypad) is different. [Or, maybe there is no such product; see below--jimh]
I wouldn't be overly concerned with the update rate of the GPS receiver for interaction with the auto-pilot. The auto-pilot is probably going to give more weight to the boat heading in making a steering correction to maintain the desired heading or course or progress toward a waypoint.
posted 08-24-2015 05:32 PM ET (US)
The Heading sensor and GPS receiver included with the autopilot is a Point 1-AP, not the same as the regular Point-1. I'd recommend you use it if it came with the autopilot. It has a 10-Hz refresh rate and also works with the radar overlay.
I'm quite happy with the auto-pilot, it's been working flawlessly now for over two months. I hardly ever steer anymore, just going in and out of the marina channel which is only about 30-feet wide. Just pushing the red button will activate it to hold a compass heading (but tidal current will affect your heading), or you can touch the screen on the chart plotter and tell it to go to the cursor and it will go there irrespective of any current or wind. The only bugaboo with the system is that if you have the steering screen active, it locks up the zoom and pan features on the chart plotter, a minor inconvenience. You can hide the auto-pilot controls while still maintaining a course if you want to zoom or pan with the auto-lot active.
|Hook Em Out||
posted 08-25-2015 09:59 AM ET (US)
I installed the outboard Pilot with a HDS7 Touch Gen2 on a Verado Power Steering. Went fairly well. Had trouble with the commissioning, it would only move an inch or so in the final step where you need to hold the button from starboard to port move. Made several calls to tech support, finally got the right guy (should have wrote down his name). There is a software glitch at least on the touch gen2's, you cannot use the button that comes up on the screen that you have to hold down until it get to port side (as they do in the commissioning YouTube video). Use the "+" zoom button to the far right instead. They say there will be a update to fix it, but I think the + button is better. They told me the touch screen losses your finger before it makes it to port side.
Point-1 that comes in the box comes up in the network as a Point-1 AP. I see a lot of chatter on here that it was not intended for auto pilots. It may be a regular old Point-1 or it may be a upgraded one, I do not know. But it has a different name Point-1 AP, I assume for Auto Pilot.
Also if anyone is wondering about use with power steering. I ran some tests and checked the current draw on the auto pilot steering pump both with the electric verado power steering pump running and with it off. No difference in load on the auto pilot pump. It work independent of the power steering. No need to have it running if you do not have to. For something like a kicker motor tied in to the main motor's steering.
Just Installed it last week and had obligations this past weekend, so it has not been on the water yet. I will make sure I report back as soon as do get it out, I am interested in how it does while trolling.
posted 08-25-2015 10:04 AM ET (US)
ASIDE to VIPER on the new topic he has introduced into the discussion regarding the update rate of a particular GPS receiver, and regarding the device VIPER owns that he calls a "HDS-12 Gen-2": I can't find any reference to such a device. In searching for information about the HDS Gen-2 devices, I can only find the following models listed:
The HDS-12 model designator seems to have been used only for the HDS-12 Gen-2 Touch model.
The HDS-8 Gen-2 and HDS-10 Gen-2 internal GPS receivers are 1-Hz receivers. The HDS-12 Gen-2 Touch has a 5-Hz GPS receiver.
|Hook Em Out||
posted 08-25-2015 10:32 PM ET (US)
acseatsri you can make a multi function screen with the chart plotter screen and the steering screen and anything else you want, and have control of them all.
posted 09-02-2015 09:17 PM ET (US)
acseatsri- "The Heading sensor and GPS receiver included with the autopilot is a Point 1-AP, not the same as the regular Point-1. I'd recommend you use it if it came with the autopilot. It has a 10-Hz refresh rate and also works with the radar overlay."
How do you know? And why would you recommend that it be used? The RC42 has a 20-Hz refresh rate and I highly doubt there is a difference. The POINT-1 that was included in my outboard pilot kit has "Point-1" printed on the bottom, not "Point-1AP".
I got my outboard pilot installed. I used my existing RC42 and internal GPS sensor in my HDS 12 Gen 2 Touch. So far I haven't been impressed with its course-holding ability. However, I believe I may have a bit of air left in my system that I am going to attempt to bleed out and then re-test. Also, I am having a significant amount of torque when turning to port at cruise, so I am going to adjust the engine torque tab. Once I have addressed these items, I will test the autopilot again and report back.
One thing that I don't like: When the autopilot is engaged, it overlays a course heading indicator at the top of the HDS screen. This indicator cuts off the top of your pages (in my case chart and sonar). As a result, you cannot see your SOG, depth etc. I'm not sure if there is a way to adjust this, if so I haven't found it yet.
posted 09-03-2015 09:15 PM ET (US)
Viper, my point1-AP is marked as such. According to Lowrance, there is a difference between them, but I don't know if they gave me accurate information or not, as it seems to be a crapshoot when you call tech support whether you get someone knowledgeable or not.
The OUTBOARD PILOT does wander a little as far as holding course, but after having experience with other auto-pilots, I wouldn't deem it excessive. I've found that the default sensitivity setting at "3" seems to work the best.
Air in the hyrdraulic lines or cylinder will definitely degrade the performance.
Re the bar at the top of the screen when the auto-pilot is engaged: mine just adds it at the top and resizes the whole screen so everything still fits and looks the same, albeit a bit smaller.
I already have about 60 hours of use on the AP and have no complaints. For the price, I'm very pleased with its performance.
One more note: I moved my important data overlays (like SOG, depth, RPM) to the bottom of the display and used the largest size digits they have available. This way it doesn't block anything on the screen other than where you've already traveled.
posted 09-05-2015 10:39 AM ET (US)
Based on the first-hand reports above, it appears that some OUTBOARD PILOT products were shipped with a GNSS receiver and heading sensor marked as "Point-1" and others were shipped with a one marked "Point-1AP".
It has not been determined if there is any functional difference between the devices. Maybe the marking of "Point-1AP" is just used to denote that the device was included in the OUTBOARD PILOT bundle and was not purchased separately. That might be done in order to distinguish it for purposes like rebates or other aspects of the product apart from its actual function.
I am sure that the on-screen presentation of non-auto-pilot data can be adjusted or optimized so that when the auto-pilot control screen is presented the auto-pilot data does not interfere with the other data. I suspect that users will have to work out the best arrangement of on-screen data elements to suite their own preferences. It is a general problem in a multi-function display device that when it is used for display of multiple functions simultaneously there may be some reduction or compromise in the visual presentation of one of the functions. That is just the nature of multi-function displays.
posted 09-05-2015 01:51 PM ET (US)
The extremely low price of the Lowrance OUTBOARD PILOT is very likely due, in part, to its reliance on use of a Lowrance or Simrad multi-function display to present some of the visual control elements of the auto-pilot function and to rely on the chart plotter function of the multi-function display to provide navigational data to the auto-pilot, for example, to navigate to a waypoint or preset destination. By using the multi-function display and chart plotter function of another device, the OUTBOARD PILOT does not have to provide its own display or its own navigation computer. Considering the very modest cost of the Lowrance OUTBOARD pilot, one can reasonably assume that offloading of those functions to other devices has contributed to the lower price of the OUTBOARD PILOT.
I suspect that if a user requires that the control system for an auto-pilot must have its own dedicated display device and have its own independent navigation computer, a higher price will have to be paid for the auto-pilot than the price charged by Lowrance for the OUTBOARD PILOT.
In any control system using some sort of automated process control, if there are unusual characteristics in the actual control system being managed by the controlling device, say, for example in the case of a hydraulic control system where the hydraulic lines in the actuator system contain air, it may not be reasonable to anticipate that the controller will be able to recognize the effect of such an unusual condition and to automatically adjust itself in a way to compensate for it. This is particularly true in a control system in which there is not a direct feedback sensor that returns to the control system the exact status of the device being controlled, which, in the case of an auto-pilot, would be the rudder or the position of the outboard engine tiller. If an auto-pilot system employed a rudder position sensor, the controller would be continually informed of the rudder position. In control systems like the OUTBOARD PILOT, there is no rudder position sensor, and the controller must employ some algorithm or control process that anticipates that when it commands the rudder to move in a particular direction and with a particular deflection, the rudder will actually move to that setting. If problems in the hydraulic system prevent that from occurring, the controller may become confused or, at the least, not operate as effectively as it might otherwise be able to do. On this basis, it seems particularly important that the hydraulic lines in the steering system being controlled by the OUTBOARD PILOT should be properly bled of air. The installation instructions require that be done. To hear that operation of the OUTBOARD PILOT is less than optimal when there is air in the hydraulic system does not come as a big surprise.
|Hook Em Out||
posted 09-12-2015 07:35 PM ET (US)
Several trip with the Auto Pilot, and I love it. Cruises great and trolls great. Does very good in heavy waves, tolled 7 hour in it on one trip and it did great job, never got behind ever at full idle (1mph to 1.5mph). Select a waypoint you want to go to a window pops up and asks if you want to use auto pilot (yes or no) select yes and it is steering you on course. You want to hold course press the external standby button supplied with the package and on comes the auto pilot and your holding course. Press it again and it turns off. The Outboard Pilot does have a independent nav computer, the Lowrance chart/plotter is just the interface you use to control it. I am running the virtual rudder with no problems. But if someone wanted to run it with a rudder feedback, the Nav computer has a spot to plug in rudder feed back. Very pleased with the product. Did have a good run around with tech support until I got the right guy. Wish I would have wrote down his name to pass on to others.
|Hook Em Out||
posted 09-12-2015 07:52 PM ET (US)
P.S. I was skeptical of the virtual rudder and thought about adding a rudder sensor. So I also tried to get the auto pilot to mess up, and while auto pilot was on I would reposition the outboard with the steering wheel, some with hard left and right turns. It would just correct it self.
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