Category Archives: AIS

How to connect AIS receiver or transponder to OpenCPN software

As you probably know the AIS receivers generate NMEA sentences.

In other posts we have presented the excellent software for navigation OpenCPN that more and more sailors are using as their main chartplotting solution on board. This open source software is available for Windows, Linux and Mac OSX.

In the latest version 3.2 there are significant improvements for AIS data processing.

Today we will focus on the installation and configuration procedure.

1. Connecting the AIS receiver to the chart plotting software OpenCPN

If the AIS receiver has USB connection, like for example the True Heading AIS RX Carbon, then it is very straight-forward.

If it has a serial connector (DB9 RS232), then you will normally have to use an adapter, because modern computers do not feature serial ports anymore. These have been replaced by USB ports.

We can recommend any Prolific chipset based converter, there are a lot of generic brands. Or if you want to search for a specific model, Belkin offers a few.

2. Configuring OpenCPN

You should follow the same guide used to configure a GPS, because basically as the GPS uses NMEA sentences, it works similarly to an AIS receiver. You can find them here http://opencpn.org/ocpn/setting_up_gps. This example is based on Windows. Basically you have to identify what is the COM port being used by the USB serial converter.

There is additional info in this page http://opencpn.org/ocpn/data_connections. You will see that the example is based on Linux.

3. Plotting AIS targets

The result of decoding the AIS data can be shown in the charts, as seen in the below image:

OpenCPN navigation software AIS decoding example view

OpenCPN navigation software AIS decoding example view

And a lot of configuration options are available, as described in the manual here: http://opencpn.org/ocpn/ais

Free AIS decoder software

If you want to set up an AIS receiver station, this is what you need to put together:
- VHF antenna
- AIS receiver/decoder
- Connection to a PC (via serial or, even better, USB)
- PC
- Decoding and plotting software

Apart from the software used, the most important piece of the set is the AIS receiver. We offer an affordable, two-channel, light and USB pluggable receiver:

http://www.aisnautica.com/en/productos/ais-receiver-true-heading-rx-carbon

Regarding the antenna, a VHF compatible antenna is suitable to receive AIS frequencies, since they are within the range of VHF.

Thanks to our experience and some research, we have put together a list of free AIS decoder software available. Some of these programs offer AIS decoding as a subset of something much more capable as a generic navigation software.

OPEN CPN
http://opencpn.org/ocpn/
A complete and open source navigation software, with very good AIS plotting features

OpenCPN navigation software AIS decoding example view

OpenCPN navigation software AIS decoding example view

GNU AIS
http://sourceforge.net/projects/gnuais/
Another open source software

GNUAIS AIS decoder open source software

GNUAIS AIS decoder open source software

SHIPPLOTTER
http://www.coaa.co.uk/shipplotter.htm
A classic one, offers tons of options for sharing

SHIPPLOTTER AIS decoding and sharing software

SHIPPLOTTER AIS decoding and sharing software

SEACLEAR
http://www.sping.com/seaclear/

SeaClear navigation software with AIS decoding and plotting capabilities

SeaClear navigation software with AIS decoding and plotting capabilities

AISPlotter LITE
http://www.yachtingsoftware.com/ais-viewer—free-download_c23.aspx

AIS Plotter software to decode and display AIS targets

AIS Plotter software to decode and display AIS targets

A complete AIS solution for your yacht, transponder and display from Vesper Marine

In the on-line store for AIS nautical products AISnautica.com you can find the new Vesper Marine AIS class B wifi enabled transponder and the display.

AIS class B transponder Vesper Marine X8000 and Watchmate 670 display

AIS class B transponder Vesper Marine X8000 and Watchmate 670 display

You can buy them separately from AISnautica.com on-line store:

Any doubt, please get in touch with us

AIS transponder class A True Heading Carbon Pro: ready to mount

We have many customers asking about what is included in the package for the class A AIS transceiver True Heading Carbon Pro. Well, here are the pictures so you see what you get when you buy one of these AIS transponders

This is the box weighting around 4 kg.

AIS-transceiver-class-A-box

You will find everything you need to install the AIS on your vessel. The only item not included is the VHF antenna. You can use an standard marine VHF antenna. The items in the box are the following:

● Carbon-ProAIS transceiver
● GPS antenna with 20m cable
● Data cable
● Junction box
● Power cable
● Trunnion bracket
● Panel mount brackets
● Fixing screws
● User and installation manual
● Quick start guide
● Support tools CD

AIS-transceiver-class-A-box-2

Detail of transponder and manual:

AIS-transponder-class-A

And the back view of the transponder with all the connectors:

AIS-transponder-class-A-back

Following the Quick Guide and the Manual you will find it very easy to do the installation.

Cheap AIS receiver

If you are looking for a bargain AIS receiver, check out this second and equipment in Ebay.com. It is a TrueHeading RX Yacht:

http://www.ebay.es/itm/AIS-Receiver-TrueHeading-RX-Yacht-/151143084351?pt=LH_DefaultDomain_186&hash=item2330d4713f&_uhb=1

Former AIS RX Yacht receiver

Former AIS RX Yacht receiver

It has now been replaced with the new model, now accepting USB connection and also includes an internal splitter (RX “Plus” model) that will simplify your on-board installation.

AIS receiver RX + (plus) by TrueHeading

AIS receiver RX + (plus) by TrueHeading

You can buy on-line the AIS receiver RX Plus from TrueHeading in this link

ships and yacht gps tracking solutions

When I talk to people about what we do in Atlantic Source with different tracking technologies, they normally say “ah, ok, so it is like a GPS”. I normally make a point saying, “well, yes, GPS let’s you know where you are, but it does not send your information anywhere, since this info stays with you. We do provide the means to send that information elsewhere, then you decide to keep it either privately or share it with others”.

So, what solutions are there available to track ships, yachts, and other marine assets?

Some of the key issues to consider:

- Coverage
- Autonomy
- Size
- Frequency of messages
- Price (acquisition and operation)
- Ability to receive others’ positions
- Privacy
- Regulation

Most of these items will be related to the technology use use to send out our GPS position. We are going to focus in three:

- Cellular phone network (GSM/GPRS/EDGE/3G/…)
- Satellite communications (Inmarsat, Globalstar, Iridium,…)
- VHF radio using AIS (Automatic Identification System) standard

Cellular phone network

This is probably the cheapest for acquisition, since any smartphone will do the work, and can also be very cheap for operation because you can make use of your regular data plan. Position messages are small messages so you should be able to fit a lot of them in your monthly data bundle.

The major drawback of this solution is coverage. If you are planning to leave the coast out of sight, or even, just go off more than 10 miles, you may start losing coverage so your device will not send any additional data.

Besides, if you change country in your trip, you will have to face roaming charges to your data, and this is likely to be outrageously expensive.

So, altogether, the cellular phone network can be a good solution for inland waters or sailing within a bay or close to the coast, but not if you are planning a long journey.

Satellite communications

Aimed at providing global coverage, satellite communications are the best option if you are navigating in open seas.

Besides, when compared to mobile network communications, satellite offers a nice advantage: it has no roaming charges. On the other hand, data transmission is more expensive, so with satellite you should reduce the amount of position messages that you send to what is really needed. Maybe a message every 3/4 hours?

VHF radio using AIS

AIS, Automatic Identification System, was designed to improve safety-at-sea. It is a bidirectional tracking solution, meaning that you can transmit your position and see the position of other boats. This is a major difference with the other two options that we discussed above. We can say that this system is valuable as long as most of the vessels use it, and it is based on publicly sharing the position.

So why have we put it here? because if you are doing coastal navigation, you will find that there are plenty of base stations, many of them amateur, that cover the coast and share the received information thanks to great software like ShipPlotter or AIS Dispatcher. You can see examples of AIS maritime traffic here.

AIS transponders and receivers use the VHF designated AIS frequencies, so transmission and reception are both free. On the other hand, the information you transmit is available to anyone with a receiver, there is no possibility to encrypt it (unless you are in the military).

How to connect a Northstar Explorer, Standard Horizon, Hummingbird plotters to an AIS transponder

Thanks to the NMEA-2000 and NMEA-0183 standards, it is easy to plug a class B True Heading AIS Transponder with a Northstar Explorer, Standard Horizon or Hummingbird plotter.

In this pdf you will find the diagram explaining how to connect the AIS transceiver to a Northstar Explorer, Standard Horizon or Hummingbird series plotter.

Please let us know any feedback or comments you may have. This guide is specific for the True Heading class B AIS transponder CTRX Graphene.

How to connect a Lowrance plotter to an AIS transponder

Thanks to the NMEA-2000 and NMEA-0183 standards, it is easy to plug a class B True Heading AIS Transponder with a Lowrance HDS 5X,7,8 and 10 series plotter.

In this pdf you will find the diagram explaining how to connect the AIS transceiver to a Lowrance HDS 5X,7,8 and 10 series plotter.

Please let us know any feedback or comments you may have. This guide is specific for the True Heading class B AIS transponder CTRX Graphene.

How to connect a Garmin plotter to an AIS transponder

Thanks to the NMEA-2000 and NMEA-0183 standards, it is easy to plug a class B True Heading AIS Transponder with a Garmin 400, 500, 600, 700, series, Garmin 3000, 4000, 6000, 7000 series plotter.

In this pdf you will find the diagram explaining how to connect the AIS transceiver to a Garmin 400, 500, 600, 700, series, Garmin 3000, 4000, 6000, 7000 series plotter.

Please let us know any feedback or comments you may have. This guide is specific for the True Heading class B AIS transponder CTRX Graphene.