What is Autopilot, its principle and details?

  •  Weather:

The effect of weather & sea conditions effectively counteracted by use of this control. This setting increases the dead band width. Comes in handy if vessel is yawing excessively.

What are different Steering modes of Auto Pilot?
  • Auto / manual: allows user to select between manual steering & autopilot. Officer to steer correct course, rudder to be on midships,course to steer set (gyro pointer on lubber line), off course alarm set before changing over to autopilot.
  • Follow up: if rudder is to be put on starboard 10, helm is put on starboard 10. When helm is on midship rudder will return to midships.
  • Non-follow up: if rudder to be put on starboard 10 helm is turned to starboard, a few degrees before starboard 10 the helm is put on midships, rudder then settles on starboard 10. If rudder goes beyond starboard 10, slight port helm to be given. Rudder will remain on starboard 10 even when helm is returned to midship. To bring it back to midships port helm to be given.
What is Off course alarm?
  • It is fitted on the autopilot usually set for 5 or 10 degrees. If difference between actual course & course set by officer for autopilot is more than value set for alarm, it will sound.
  • This alarm will not sound in case of gyro failure.
  • Only indication in this case is a gyro failure alarm. Gyro compass & repeaters to compared frequently along with magnetic compass.
What are disadvantages of Autopilot?
  • The auto pilot gives rudder according to the gyro heading.
  • If the gyro fails the autopilot will still keep the gyro course & wander with the gyro.
  • Gyro alarm to be taken seriously or the v/l will collide if there are sudden alterations.


About the author

Amit Sharma

Graduated from M.E.R.I. Mumbai (Mumbai University), After a brief sailing founded this website with the idea to bring the maritime education online which must be free and available for all at all times and to find basic solutions that are of extreme importance to a seafarer by our innovative ideas.