Tag Archives: OpenCPN

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 These have been replaced by USB ports.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

OpenCPN, a free open-source navigation software, alternative to MaxSea

We are very happy to see that the great open source software OpenCPN is releasing a new version, 3.2. in May 8th 2013. This is a great alternative to MaxSea, Navi Sailor, etc.

In this version we find a lot of improvements for AIS support. Please see the list below.

OpenCPN a free open-source sofware for PC, Mac and Linux

OpenCPN a free open-source sofware for PC, Mac and Linux

Features

  • BSBv3 raster and S57 ENC chart support.
  • CM93 vector chart support, with per cell offset corrections.
  • IHO S52 compliant display of S57 vector charts.
  • “BSB4″ and “nv-chart” support through plugins.
  • Single-chart and Quilted display modes.
  • North-up, Course-up and Chart-up display modes.
  • Moving-map display mode.
  • Route navigation with ship tracking functions.
  • Waypoint navigation.
  • Dashboard for configurable on-screen display of ship’s NMEA data.
  • NMEA 0183 GPS interface at selectable baud rate.
  • OpenGL support for enhanced performance on modern hardware.
  • Advance NMEA message handling structure, with built in multiplexer.
  • Autopilot output support.
  • AIS input with full target tracking and collision alerting.
  • AIS support for SART, DSC and GPSGate Buddies.
  • Anchor watch/alarm functions.
  • GRIB file input and display for weather forecasting.
  • GPX Waypoint, Track and Route input and output file support.
  • Tide and Current prediction and display by location.
  • Route planning with tidal support.
  • Builtin great-circle routing.
  • Integrated weather routing through qtVlm.
  • GPX Layers for annotation of charts.
  • A selection of display themes.
  • A growing number of plugins. Google Earth, World Magnetic Variation, Voyage Data Recorder, AIS -radar, SAR and a LogBook.
  • Multi-language support. 20+ languages supported.

Platforms

  • Windows XP, Vista and 7
  • Linux, BSD, Solaris
  • Macintosh OSX

More information: http://opencpn.org/ocpn/