We have been trying out the new and very inexpensive dAISy AIS vhf usb receiver with our Android Boat Beacon app. It works great – straight out of the box. Just connect dAISy to an aerial and to your Android device via an android OTG cable, Boat Beacon automatically shows up as an app to pick to work with it, select Boat Beacon and make sure Local AIS via USB is turned on in Boat Beacon’s settings and receive local live AIS data straight into Boat Beacon. No need for an internet connection to see ships around you. I use an OTG cable with a power connector so that I can keep my device charged and use the external AIS receiver at the same time.
We have also tried using dAISy with our Mac SeaNav Marine Navigation app via USB and it also works very well.
dAISy is really well made in an amazingly small and durable aluminium metal box ( 63 x 44 x 23 mm – size of a matchbox ) and retails for the incredibly low price of $59 (£41). It is only single channel. It does channel hop but it will only receive half as many messages as a dual channel AIS receiver, so it can take twice as long to acquire a target or get an update to its position. But dual channel receivers cost at least double this and most are 4 to 5 times as expensive. It is available here:–
Here’s what Adrian, dAISy’s creator has to say about the range and sensitivity compared to other far more expensive AIS receivers:-
“dAISy did perform better than the RadarGadget AIS USB dongle and a cheap SDR dongle. One customer reported that dAISy’s performance is comparable to NASA AIS Engine, though I didn’t have an opportunity to verify that myself. Range in the real world is hard to quantify as it relies so much on antenna, location and radio noise. In general, with a proper VHF antenna, line of sight works well. Boaters with the antenna on top the mast report a range of approx. 17NM, that’s also a typical range that I see from unobstructed shore-based stations. .”
Pocket Mariner and Digital Yacht have sponsored a new AIS receiver for the National CoastWatch Institute ( NCI ) station in Barry. Terry Ewington, the station manager, and his team helped us with the installation today and we now have a live AIS internet feed providing greatly improved real time coverage for the Bristol Channel from Bristol City centre across to Newport and down through Cardiff and Barry to Ilfracombe on the north Devon coast. The real time AIS data is available instantly for folks using our Boat Beacon, SeaNav and free Boat Watch apps.
The NCI perform an increasingly important “eyes on the ground” role for marine safety, especially with the loss of many of our regional Coastguard stations due to centralisation by the MCA in the UK. The NCI have also recently been assigned VHF channel 65 as a dedicated VHF channel to provide information and assistance on. Call them up on channel 65 if you are passing in the Bristol Channel or phone them on 01446 420746.
The Barry NCI station is in a wonderful and beautiful location at Nells Point with excellent views and a coastal path running past it. It is very well worth a visit if you are in the area or call them up on VHF Channel 65 if you are sailing in the area and need local information or help. You can check out the live data using this web link or on any of our apps.
Here are some instructions on how to connect to GoFree on Boat Beacon Android to use AIS from your own boat’s AIS receiver.
On the B&G: Settings Page –> network –> nmea0183 –> Ethernet , take note of the IP Address (e.g. 192.168.1.109) and Port (port is usually 10110) . See screenshot below
In Boat Beacon: go to Settings –> scroll down to AIS Sources. Tap Local AIS and select TCP. Then tap Local AIS host and enter the IP address you noted from your B&G device. Then tap Local AIS port and enter the port number – e.g. 10110. Boat Beacon should then see the AIS data from your B&G instrument and the Local AIS light on Boat Beacon should go green,
Be sure your Android device is connected to the GoFree wifi networkIP. If GoFree on your boat doesn’t have a full internet connection available there is also a setting in Boat Beacon to allow you to use your 3G connection at the same time as connected to GoFree to get internet data (like email and the map overlays).
Here are some tips/pointers from our initial experience of using the Apple Watch with our Boat Beacon app.
1. By default the Apple Watch shows a watch face when you raise your wrist to look at it. If you want to see your nav data on Boat Beacon you have to press the crown and select Boat Beacon. This is really annoying when you want to see your navigation information at the flick of your wrist. Fortunately there is an option in the Apple Watch app on your iPhone to ensure the Boat Beacon app (or whichever app you were using last ) stays on top – its in My Watch/General/Activate on Wrist Raise/Resume Previous Activity – make sure this is ticked.
2. You need Boat Beacon on your iPhone/iPad to be in Sailing mode (Sailing button bottom left selected) to get SOG, COG , Heading and CPA/AIS information on Boat Beacon’s watch app display. The same applies to our SeaNav Watch app which also has a Waypoints display.
3. iPhone Battery is draining much faster when SeaNav or Boat Beacon app has been run on my watch even though it is no longer being displayed on the watch and I am not running the apps on my phone/iPad.
The problem is that when you launch the SeaNav or Boat Beacon watch app (or in fact any app that needs gps) on your watch it stays running even when its not showing on the watch face and/or another app (e.g. the clock) is showing. As it is running it will keep asking the iPhone for gps info which will eat battery on your iPhone. The solution is to “Force stop” the SeaNav app on your Watch when you have finished using it. Here’s how to do this:-
With the SeaNav/Boat Beacon app showing on your Watch screen press and hold the side button below the Digital Crown for a few seconds. The next screen you see features buttons for Power Off, Power Reserve and Lock Device. When you see this screen press and hold the side button again until you see SeaNav disappear and be replaced by the home screen. There are more instructions for how to do a force stop here
We need a way to exit the SeaNav app on the watch more easily – either from the iPhone or more directly from within the SeaNav app running on the watch. This appears to be a mistake/oversight by Apple (a lot of folks with fitness and cycling apps are complaining to Apple about battery drain) and hopefully they will address it in a future release.
Just remember to force quit it on your Watch when you don’t need it running.
4. The wrist torch mode doesn’t work – looks like Apple won’t let the watch show a blank white screen (it worked in the simulator). We will take a look at how to get this working. For now you can use the AIS Map display to shed some light in the dark.
5. The watch screen is polarised to reduce glare and visibility is good on a bright day. Apple have got the polarisation right – just like on instrument displays on aircraft – it works fine with Polarised sunglasses. We tested with a pair of my son’s Ray-Ban Aviators and we could see the watch face fine.
With the help of a ShipPlotter user in Finland we have been able to run side by side tests of our Pocket Mariner Dual Channel AIS receiver with a mainstream commercial brand AIS receiver costing over 3 times the price. We are very pleased with the results, with the Pocket Mariner Dual Channel AIS receiver achieving almost exactly the same coverage/range/data rate of the well known commercial brand. Here are some stats comparing our Pocket Mariner AIS receiver on port 7018 (blue) and the other on port 5378 (red ) and screenshots at the same time of the coverage from the same aerial in Helsinki.
Rate of data received (bits/s)
We also found that the coverage/range for both the commercial AIS receiver and ours was significantly improved using a relatively in-expensive AIS frequency (162MHz) tuned filter and pre-amp on the aerial feed. We used and would recommend the VHF Pre-amp from Spectrum Communications (formerly known as the Garex pre-amp). They start at around £15 for the pcb built one and around £50 for a boxed version. The ship ranges in the screenshots below is approximately 150km (100Miles). The tropospheric conditions were good.
7018 Pocket Mariner Dual Channel AIS Receiver coverage snapshot
5378 Commercial AIS Receiver coverage snapshot
N.B. The buoys at the top of the screen (North) are over 350km away and most likely Synthetic Aids To Navigation being broadcast by a shore based station nearer our aerial.
If you are interested in having a Pocket Mariner Dual Channel AIS receiver please get in touch with us at . firstname.lastname@example.org