EARLIER this year Raymarine released details of its new CHIRP capable Dragonfly sonar/GPS unit. Fishing World managed to get hold of a prototype version of the Dragonfly, which is designed for the trailerboat market, ahead of its Australian release. As a long-time owner of a Raymarine sounder/GPS (an A65 unit) I put the new model through its paces during a couple of outings on my 4.3m Webster.
Fitting the unit proved fairly simple. I did, however, have reservations about the size of the Dragonfly's transducer. In comparison to the short oval shaped version of the A65, the Dragonfly's 'ducer sticks out finger-like from the stern. Luckily it's designed to easily pivot upward to prevent any damage upon contact with underwater objects.
The head unit can be flush or bracket mounted. Installation with the supplied quick release tilt and swivel mount was fairly easy and there is an optional Thule locking system available to prevent theft.
Turning the unit on sees it boot up like a computer. Once powered up, manoeuvring through the menu – without looking at the manual – was quite easy and fairly intuitive. The set's main control functions come via its UniControl dial which features joystick, rotary and push button operation. Turning the rotary dial scrolls through the set's different menu display options, e.g. full sonar; full chart; sonar/chart; downvision/sonar and so on. The joystick allows you to move the cursor position in different modes, while the middle "OK" button opens menus and confirms selections.
Selecting the desired display is a simple process. I found the split screen options the most useful for fishing and general sounding/navigation; choosing a full screen display – ie, full chart or sonar – is quick and easy with the rotary dial. Being very familiar with the A65, which also features rotary control, I quickly warmed to the Dragonfly's menu operation. Being able to quickly zoom in and out on the plotter chart via the rotary dial is a great feature.
One case of "chalk and cheese" between my (several years old) A65 and the new Dragonfly was in display clarity. Thanks no doubt to powerful dual channel CHIRP technology, the Dragonfly's 5.7" colour display was crisp, detailed and impressively bright. This little unit delivers the sort of detail usually seen on much more expensive units. Most importantly, the imagery is easy to see in direct sunlight, even with polarised lenses on. The crisp readout didn't alter at speeds of up to 25 knots.
According to manufacturer specs, the Dragonfly operates via a dual-beam transducer which sends out a wide 60° x 1.4° fan beam to supply DownVision imagery and a conical 25° beam for targeting fish. The unit's default Auto sensitivity setting was set at around 50 per cent, which seemed a good compromise. Bumping the sensitivity up slightly resulted in too much screen clutter and didn't really add useful information detail.
As mentioned, users have the option of a variety of single or combination split screen displays. I found the Downvision/sonar and chart/sonar the most useful. For those not familiar with technology such as DownVision, it basically delivers underwater imagery in a photo or x-ray like form as opposed to the sonar's pixel form. In split screen Downvison/sonar mode this means users have more detailed information available for separating targets (fish) from structure. To test the Downvision's effectiveness I ran the boat close to moorings and bridges where anchor chains, ropes and metal pylons were clearly displayed as such. Where this technology really shines is when sounding over underwater structure such as wrecks and reefs. Check out footage of the Dragonfly in action over a Sydney-based wreck here.
The units come supplied with either a Navionics Silver or Gold marine chart on a micro SD card. I found the supplied chart easy to use for marking waypoints, tracks and travelling routes. I did find, however, that the waypoint arrival setting was wildly optimistic! The default was 632ft but thankfully this could be manually adjusted down via the menu.
Overall, after a short time using this new unit I was impressed. It packs plenty of punch and is perfectly suited to owners of smaller trailer boats or even kayaks. RRP is $945 including a Navionics Gold marine chart.
More info available at: www.raymarine.com.au