School Amateur Radio clubs building AIS receivers

The School Amateur Radio Club Network (www.sarcnet.org) got in contact with us to let us know about their work promoting radio clubs in Schools. They are a neat way to get in an extra shot of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) while exercising on-air conversational skills and tuning up enquiring minds. Amongst the many very interesting projects they help schools with ranging from high Altitude Balloon Telemetry to Robotics  one is an AIS receiver which shares its data with our network and others.  They provide details of the free DIY AIS Receiver project based on a Raspberry Pi Zero and an RTL-SDR dongle at https://www.sarcnet.org/ais-receiver.html and they say many AIS enthusiasts around the world have built their project and share their data with us.

Having taken a look at their excellent tutorial we hope schools and science teachers will pick up on it. We have also suggested they might want to include an easier aerial to build based on our experience with the simple dipole aerial which we made for the cost of a length of coax cable and got over 30NM range with – see https://pocketmariner.com/simple-3db-dipole-vhf-ais-marine-aerial-co-ax-cable/

 

Setup Boat Beacon Android AIS Sharing to Navionics Boating

Get live AIS ship positions around you on the Navionics Boating app without the need for an AIS receiver.
Boat Beacon can now share its real time AIS feed from our global AIS aerial network via NMEA with Navionics on the same device or on the same Wifi Network. Boat Beacon acts as a “Virtual AIS Receiver” and is the first and currently only app out there that offers this .
Navionics have worked closely with us on this with their Boating app  AIS feature and recommend Boat Beacon in its own category in their  Boating app – AIS Devices Compatibility Guide.
The new Boat Beacon AIS Share feature is free to try.  If you find it useful you can use it any time when you are out boating for a small monthly or annual subscription via IAP.
You can get the latest version of Boat Beacon from the Apple App Store here and Google PlayStore here.
This is a step by step guide on how to configure Boat Beacon AIS Sharing with Navionics on Android (there is an iOS guide here). The AIS Sharing feature includes a free no obligation 3 day trial so you can try before you buy.
1. Launch Boat Beacon and go into Boat Beacon settings and tap “Share AIS to other Apps”. You will be offered a free three day trial with one of the two subscription period options. There is no charge if you want to cancel before the end of the trial period. Next set ‘Share AIS’ on.
You will see this prompt advising the settings to use in Navionics.
Tap OK, go back to the map view and set sailing mode on (Sailboat icon bottom left). This will position Boat Beacon on your current GPS location.  Here I am positioned in the Solent in the UK aboard the Red Kestrel. (*N.B. See notes below if there are no ships within 30 miles of your GPS location and you need to pan the map to a location away from your GPS position to see ships).

2. Now switch to the Navionics Boating app (on the same device) and position the Navionics map on your GPS position  and then tap Menu so you can configure AIS.
Scroll down to “Paired Devices”
You should then see this screen*, tap “Add Device” at the bottom.
(* If you already have a device set up you can add another by tapping the + at the top right on the device list screen.)
Fill out the Name as “Boat Beacon” ( or whatever you want to call the connection), the Host as 127.0.0.1 and the Port Number as 5353 and make sure the protocol is set as TCP.
Tap “Save” top right and go back to the map view. You should now see live AIS boat and ship icons on the Navionics map.
Now every time you run Boat Beacon in Sailing mode Navionics will automatically connect and receive the live AIS data from around your GPS location out to 30NM.
If you check back in Menu/Paired devices you will see Boat Beacon as Connected and AIS: Receiving data
Notes:
  • *If you are trying this at home far from the sea and live vessel positions you can still see AIS ship positions from Boat Beacon in Navionics but they will not get automatically updated. Pan the Boat Beacon map to a location where there are live AIS targets. Set AIS sharing on and launch Navionics and pan its map to the same location. You will see the ships’ last positions from Boat Beacon. However they will not get updated until you re-visit Boat Beacon (to refresh the map position ships) and then go back to Navionics. This is because Boat Beacon can only update ship positions around your GPS location when running in the background.
  • Boat Beacon must be in Sailing mode to maintain the AIS feed when it is in the background ( e.g. when you are viewing the Navionics Boating app) on your device.
  • You do not need to have a WiFi connection to your device to use Boat Beacon and Navionics on the same device. You must have an internet connection though (e.g. Cellular/Mobile).
  • You can share to Navionics on other devices too if they are on the same local WiFi network using the IP address shown in Boat Beacon’s AIS Sharing setting instead of 127.0.0.1 in the Navionics Devices setting.
  • If you have any questions or problems getting it working please email us at help@pocketmariner.com

How to setup Boat Beacon AIS Sharing to Navionics Boating app

Get live AIS ship positions around you on the Navionics Boating app without the need for an AIS receiver.
Boat Beacon can now share its real time AIS feed from our global AIS aerial network via NMEA with Navionics on the same device or on the same Wifi Network. Boat Beacon acts as a “Virtual AIS Receiver” and is the first and currently only app out there that offers this .
Navionics have worked closely with us on this with their Boating app  AIS feature and recommend Boat Beacon in its own category in their  Boating app – AIS Devices Compatibility Guide.
The new Boat Beacon AIS Share feature is free to try.  If you find it useful you can use it any time when you are out boating for a small monthly or annual subscription via IAP.
You can get the latest version of Boat Beacon from the Apple App Store here and Google PlayStore here.
This is a step by step guide on how to configure Boat Beacon AIS Sharing with Navionics on iOS (Android guide here). The guide uses Boat Beacon’s demo mode so you can try for free at home away from the coast and without having to purchase an AIS sharing subscription.
1. Launch Boat Beacon and go into Boat Beacon settings and turn on “Demo Mode”, then turn on AIS Sharing. It will show the default TCP port number to use 5353 and will be orange ( not connected). N.B. If you are not in the UK the demo mode will be centred on San Francisco bay in the US.
2. Tap Done top left and go back to the chart view. This will position the map on a virtual boat in the Solent ( or San Francisco Bay). All the other boats in view are real and live. Tap the sailboat icon bottom left to start sailing the demo route.
3. Now switch to the Navionics Boating app (on the same device) and position the Navionics map on the Solent ( or San Francisco Bay) and then tap Menu so you can configure AIS.
Scroll down to “Paired Devices”
You should then see this screen*, tap “Add Device” at the bottom.
(* If you already have a device set up you can add another by tapping the + at the top right on the device list screen.)
Fill out the Name as “Boat Beacon” ( or whatever you want to call the connection), the Host as 127.0.0.1 and the Port Number as 5353 and make sure the protocol is set as TCP.
Tap “Save” top right and go back to the map view. You should now see live AIS boat and ship icons on the Navionics map.
Now every time you run Boat Beacon in Sailing mode Navionics will automatically connect and receive the live AIS data from around your GPS location out to 30NM.
If you check back in Menu/Paired devices you will see Boat Beacon as Connected and AIS: Receiving data
Notes:
  • Boat Beacon must be in Sailing mode to maintain the AIS feed when it is in the background ( e.g. when you are viewing the Navionics Boating app) on your device.
  • Make sure you have Location sharing for Boat Beacon set to “Always” in your device Privacy/Location settings. Please note Boat Beacon will only use your location when it is running ( foreground) or in Sailing mode. It will not “Always” use your location – it’s just an unfortunate terminology from Apple.
  • You do not need to have a WiFi connection to your device to use Boat Beacon and Navionics on the same device. You must have an internet connection though (e.g. Cellular/Mobile).
  • You can share to Navionics on other devices too if they are on the same local WiFi network using the IP address shown in Boat Beacon’s AIS Sharing setting instead of 127.0.0.1 in the Navionics Devices setting.
  • If you have any questions or problems getting it working please email us at help@pocketmariner.com

Pocket Mariner live AIS Coverage

Our ship tracking network uses a global network of shore and ship-based radio stations, which receive signals from the AIS system that ships use to broadcast their positions as they travel. Our receiver stations share the ship positions with our cloud-based data server, which pushes them onwards and out to our apps and web services.

We are continuously working on increasing the coverage of our real-time AIS receiver station network. During the last three months we have added more than 100 new AIS stations across 5 continents bringing our live ship coverage to over 40,000 ships. We have supplied the AIS receiver for free for many of these sites. New volunteers are always welcome to join our AIS Network.

Here is a  list of the most recent stations we have set up  and a snapshot of our global coverage Q2 2019

America

Hudson Bay, NJ
Sakonnet River in Rhode Island
St Lawrence Seaway
British Columbia
Miami, Florida, US (2 new stations)
Antioch, CA.
Stockton,CA
St Bartholomew (Caribbean)
Dominian Republic.
Buenaventura, Colombia.
Lake Erie
Several stations in Uruguay
Several stations in Mexico

Europe

The whole of Norway
The whole of Denmark
The whole of Finland
Scicily, Italy
Turku, Finland
Maasbracht, Netherlands
Ijsselmeer, Nethrlands
Ust-Luga, Russia
St Petersburgh, Russia
Edinburgh, Scotland
Over 30 new stations in and around Sweden.
Eastbourne, UK
Scilly Isles, UK
Isle of Man, UK
Lowestoft, UK
Alicante, SP
Faro, Portugal

Africa

Port Harcourt, Nigeria.
Canary Islands
Dakar, Senegal

Middle East

Kuwait
Dubai

Australasia

Perth, Adelaide, Darwin, Australia
Nagoya, Osaka, Inland Seas, Japan
Singapore
Indonesia
Ho Chi Min City, Vitenam
Sihanoukville, Cambodia.

If you are interested in adding coverage for your area, please read our Cover Your Area information – we can often provide the equipment free of charge.

Relocating our Portsmouth Harbour AIS aerial

Relocating our Portsmouth Harbour AIS aerial

For several years we have been successfully running one of our network of AIS stations in the house of Digital Yacht’s CTO, Paul Sumpner, up on Portsdown Hill overlooking Portsmouth Harbour. All of the AIS equipped vessels operating out of Portsmouth and the central Solent were picked up and transmitted over a 4G data connection to our AIS servers. The aerial position was especially important for picking up vessels in the Northern reaches of Portsmouth Harbour.

Many users of our Boat Beacon and SeaNav apps and Portsmouth International Port benefit from this data. Paul has decided to move house and area and the pressure was on to find an alternative location in time. Fortunately, following Paul’s suggestion the wonderful people at WicorMarine volunteered to become the new custodians and yesterday we went down to help them install the system.

WicorMarine Yacht Haven is located at the top of Portsmouth Harbour, with clear line of sight across the whole harbour and we hoped that the AIS reception would be as good as before.

Between the rain showers, the WicorMarine team mounted the VHF antenna on top of their weather sensor mast, while we powered up the Digital Yacht AISNet and 4GConnect router and tested that the AIS data was being received and forwarded to the internet web server.

The results were much better than we had expected and if anything we were actually getting better all round range, than previously. As you can see from the image below, 175 targets all the way up Southampton water, as far West as Lymington and way out in to the Channel beyond Nab Tower.

Everyone at Pocket Mariner, Digital Yacht and WicorMarine are very pleased with the new installation and we hope it will continue to give perfect service for many years to come.

A big thank you to Scott Waddington and his team at WicorMarine for the use of their facilities and the professional and efficient manner in which they handled this new project.