Connecting an Automatic Identification System (AIS) to the iPad
Connecting an AIS to the iPad offers a very interesting collision avoidance function. Here's what you need.
What is AIS?
Automatic Identification System is a means of communication between vessels, using VHF channel to exchange important information to avoid collisions. Required on large commercial vessels, it becomes more and more used in pleasure boats as costs go down.
AIS can receive from the surrounding vessels:
- their name, characteristics (size, maneuverability, ...)
- their route (course and speed over ground).
Information is presented graphically on a nautical chart, appearing with each ship logo, name tag, and course - much like what is known in air traffic control!
AIS vs Radar comparison
Although having a similar purpose - ie identify obstacles surrounding the boat - AIS should not be mistaken with radar. Each equipment has its own advantages and disadvantages, the ideal being to combine the two!
Low power consumption
Low cost (about 200 to € 300)
Provides very clear information about other boats
See all surrounding obstacles (provided they are equipped with a radar reflector ...)
Detects only boats equipped with an AIS emitter
High power consumption
Gives no information on other boats course
Complex assembly, rather reserved for large units
For smaller units in search of a detection solution at lower cost, the AIS offers an attractive alternative to radar, and make great service for marine navigation in areas of heavy traffic or the passage of rails example !
Receiver or Transponder ?
Buying a simple AIS receiver will allow you to receive signals from surrounding traffic. Choosing an AIS transponder will also emit your position and make you visible to other vessels. Being equipped with a transponder increases your security (you are more likely to be seen) and participates in the AIS "ecosystem" (which would be useless if it were only receivers and no transmitters !)
Historically prices were very high, but wifi-equipped AIS transponders have become affordable lately.
Connecting an AIS to the iPad
There are several small AIS receivers on the market, mostly intended for use with a PC or a nautical plotter. They generally connect through a serial or USB port.
In the absence of serial or USB port on the iPad, it is necessary to transmit AIS data via WiFi to a compatible app.
-> If you do not have any AIS, you can purchase an AIS with integrated wifi like Digital Yacht's iAIS (receiver only) or better Vesper Marine's XB8000, which is a transponder with integrated GPS and NMEA1083/2000 connectivity.
After installing your AIS, you need an app to view information on the iPad. You will have the choice between a "radar-like" display or superimposed on the nautical chart.
Among "radar" apps, Watcheye AIS is one of the most interesting because it offers anti-collision sound alarms.