Simrad’s history is one of entrepreneurs and pioneers in technology who, through hard work, dedication and technical excellence, created and shaped one of the world’s largest and most respected marine electronics groups. Our Professional Series today is the result of the union of a number of companies that in their time were ground-breakers in their areas of technology. Names such as Robertson, Simonsen Radio and Shipmate were all recognised as the foremost names in their fields in their time, and their legacies live on in the brand Simrad to this day.
The story starts just after the Second World War with the production of radio telephones for the fishing fleet and goes on to include chapters on automatic steering, satellite navigation, communication and sophisticated instruments for the fastest racing boats in the world.
It begins in 1946 when Thorleif Robertson, the founder of auto-steering in Egersund, started out converting war surplus radios for use on fishing vessels, as did Willy Simonsen in Oslo the following year, naming his company Simonsen Radio, which later became Simrad. Simonsen went on to develop echosounders and the world’s first civil sonars, and these commercial fishery product ranges continue to be sold by the Kongsberg group. By 1948 Robertson's company had progressed to manufacturing its own transceivers, radio compasses and course calculators. With fishing fleets very much in mind, the first autopilot was developed in 1951 with three Egersund fishing boats receiving the first AP1 autopilots, and these soon gained favour with the rest of the fleet earning the nick-name ‘Helmsman Robertsons’, as the AP1 meant that crewmembers no longer had to spend long hours standing at the wheel, hence its massive popularity.
A milestone was reached in 1984 with the introduction of the first microprocessor based autopilot, the AP100. This series was the forerunner of today’s generation of autopilots, and from then on rapid development of technology led to many more sophisticated auto-steering solutions. Robertson became a Simrad manufacturer in April 1993.
Shipmate in Denmark was founded in 1977 by Erik K. Rauff and Erik Sørensen, its mission to develop, produce and sell light marine electronics on the world market. In the first years it focussed on VHF radios, but in the early 80s the development of satellite navigation (GPS) and electronic chartplotters began and rapidly became an important part of the business. Shipmate became a part of Simrad in 1994.
The original Navico was launched in Margate UK in 1985, selling instruments and autopilots for small sail boats. A period of rapid growth both in the UK and overseas encouraged it to launch the RT6500 range of VHF radios in 1987 which became the de facto standard entry-level product among European boat builders. In 1993 the AXIS range of commercial handheld radios was released and in 2000 the RD68 was launched as the world's first compact VHF with built-in DSC. In 1998 Simrad purchased Navico Ltd and in so doing extended Simrad's product range in instruments, autopilots and VHF radios.
The Navico that exists today is a completely new entity created in March 2006 by the merger of Simrad Yachting and Lowrance. With the addition of Brunswick New Technologies’ marine electronics division in March 2007, Navico became a house of brands acting as parent company to three distinct and renowned marques: B&G, Lowrance, and Simrad, all of their products now being manufactured and distributed under the Navico umbrella.
Today the Simrad name is used by two distinct entities: one of these is part of Kongsberg Maritime AS and dedicated to the manufacture of electronics specifically designed for commercial fishing boats, while the other is Simrad Yachting, incorporated into the Navico group in 2006.
The Simrad ethos
The underlying ethos and design philosophy for Simrad products in the 21st century is simple: to listen to the customer, to use our experience in engineering, to make innovative products and to allow no compromise on quality. Building on a tradition that began with the introduction of the autopilot and the first civilian echosounders and sonars over 60 years ago, we continue to apply unrivalled experience to provide better system solutions and customer support for vessel owners around the world. We do our utmost to maximize performance at sea by providing a complete range of navigation, performance and communications equipment.
Professional equipment ensures full control
The Simrad brand is also a leader in electronics technology for commercial vessels. Over the past sixty years we have developed our systems for the benefit of commercial vessels. Today we offer a range of sophisticated auto steering, navigation and safety products for vessels of all sizes, from small vessels on inland waterways to larger coastal commercial and passenger craft.