An Introduction to Fluxgate Compass

A compass is a device that helps to correctly pinpoint the geographical direction while on a sea going vessel. A fluxgate compass is a very important and unique tool in marine navigation as it does not operate automatically like other magnetic compasses. Technically a fluxgate compass is an electromagnetic compass which solves the purpose of a conventional compass.

The fluxgate compass is used in ships mainly for the purpose of steering. Since the compass is an electronic one, the scope of errors is greatly reduced. In addition to manual steering, such a compass can also be utilised when the ship is on autopilot. Even chartplotters and radars use this system to provide them with accurate geographic indications.

Fluxgate Compass

The difference between a magnetic compass and an electronic compass is that in the former variety there is a pointer that constantly moves indicating the direction. However, in an electronic compass there are no pointers that specify the direction. Electric currents that pass through coils of wire that are kept inside the compass indicate the geographic direction through signals that are displayed digitally.

Construction & Advantages

There are two coils of wire that are located perpendicular to each other around a permeable magnetic material. When electric current is passed through the coils the core material works an electromagnet and senses the direction of the horizontal component of the earth’s magnetic field. This completely eradicates the problem caused due to the interference of the magnetic north is completely avoided.

Another advantage of installing this type of compass in the ship is that these types of compasses are unaffected by their placement on the ship. They can be placed anywhere and the directions pointed by the compass can be relied on completely. Fluxgate compass can prove very useful during rough seas as they are unaffected by position and unusual movements.

However, the disadvantage of having an electronic compass is that if there is a complete lack of electricity on the ship then the device will not function making the shipmen rely again on the magnetic compass.

Another important point to be noted about the electronic compass is that the parts used in the compass have to be constantly checked. If there is any problem even with a small part of the device, the directions provided by the compass will be faulty leading to a lot of problems for the captain of the ship.

But in spite of the disadvantages, there can be no denying that the fluxgate compass is one of the best navigating technologies that are available in the marine industry.

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