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.
  • iOS14 has introduced a new privacy permission if apps want to use local network resources which both Boat Beacon  and Navionics need to have set to yes. The OS will prompt you the first time either app tries to use a connection. You can manually set/change the permission in your device’s Settings/Privacy/Local network. See screenshot below for how we have it set.

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.

Real-time internet AIS Sharing to Navionics, iNavX, OpenCPN etc. with Boat Beacon

Boat Beacon can now share its real time AIS feed from our global AIS aerial network via NMEA with other apps on the same device or on the same Wifi Network. Boat Beacon acts as a “Virtual AIS Receiver” with over the horizon coverage and is the first and currently only app out there that offers this.
Boat Beacon’s global realtime AIS coverage.
 We hope this will prove popular with folks who already have other Marine Navigation apps/charts like Navionics, OpenCPN and iNavX which support an external NMEA AIS feed but don’t have their own Internet based AIS network or feed available.
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 trial.  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.
By the way, our own top selling marine charts navigation app SeaNav already has AIS built in as standard and if you haven’t tried SeaNav why don’t you give it a spin for free first, you can download it from here now https://apps.apple.com/app/seanav/id857841271 .
Here are some screenshots from Navionics, iNavX and OpenCPN using it.

Navionics connected to Boat Beacon on 127.0.0.1 TCP port 5353

On iOS

On Android
 iNavX on same  device ( using TCP 127.0.0.1 port 5353 )

OpenCPN running on a Mac via Wifi to Boat Beacon running on an iPhone ( TCP to 192.168.1.106 port 5353).

 

There are some simple step by step instructions on how to set up Boat Beacon AIS Sharing with the Navionics Boating app here:-  https://pocketmariner.com/setup-boat-beacon-share-ais-navionics/

and here is the description in our user guide:-

AIS Sharing

Share Boat Beacon’s real time internet AIS feed via NMEA with other apps on your device and on the same Wifi network, like Navionics, OpenCPN on your Mac, iNavX etc. so you can see live ship positions around you on their charts as well. Pocket Mariner’s AIS service is fed by one of the largest network of AIS shore receivers world-wide covering most major ports, harbours and popular coastal areas with over 60,000 live ship positions at any time. Boat Beacon acts like a virtual AIS receiver and can also share your live position via Internet AIS with other users and internet based AIS services like MarineTraffic. After purchasing the Boat Beacon AIS Sharing IAP (monthly or yearly subscriptions available) just set your other apps NMEA TCP settings to connect to the IP address and TCP port (default is 5353) shown in Boat Beacon’s AIS Share setting. If you are sharing with an app on the same device you can use 127.0.0.1 as the IP address to connect to instead of the actual device IP address so you never have to change the setting when you are on a different network. Boat Beacon must be in sailing mode when sharing with other apps on the same device so it can track your position and continually update the live AIS data around you in the background. Tap the SailBoat icon  bottom left to enable Sailing mode. In the unlikely event that you need to change the TCP port number in Boat Beacon to another number, tap on the AIS Share setting row and enter it. 

On iOS you can try it out at home when there are no boats around your location by putting Boat Beacon into Demo mode ( Settings/Demo mode) first and then set sailing mode. Make sure the other app is showing the same map location as the demo mode is. Make sure to turn sailing and demo mode off when you are done. If Boat Beacon is not displaying any ships around your location then no ships will appear in the other apps either.

On Android get a 3 day free trial to try it out when you sign up for one of the subscription options. You can cancel the subscription at any time and will not be charged anything if you cancel before the end of free trial period.

Get the latest version of Boat Beacon from the App Store from here now and Google PlayStore here.

Entering routes and waypoints with SeaNav on a Mac

Here is how to enter routes and waypoints in SeaNav Mac
Left mouse click on the chart and select “Start new route here”
Screenshot 2019-05-21 at 12.48.31.png
A green pin will be placed on the map and the Navigation panel will display on the left with the first waypoint information.
To add the next waypoint move to another point and left mouse click and select “Add waypoint here”.

A red pin will appear with a blue line (route) from the first pin.
Screenshot 2019-05-21 at 12.48.59.png
You can add as many waypoints as you require and drag and drop the waypoint markers using a long mouse select on them.

Tap the i button on a Waypoint to give it a name ( optional) and view the full lat and long position ( including when you drag and drop it) so you can set its location precisely.

Screenshot 2019-05-21 at 12.53.03.png
Click on Done when finished and you can then sail the route at any time by pressing Sail. You can also select a previously saved route, Sail it , edit it or export it.
You can add a set of existing waypoints from a spreadsheet following this blog article:-
Here’s our guide on iPhone which also has some relevance to Mac. You can also export/import routes between the iOS SeaNav and Mac SeaNav app and also view them in Google Earth.
You can view the routes at any time by tapping the Navigation tab – there is a Demo route in the Solent included with the app that you can use to play with (tap the i button to view the route details and select Edit Route) :-
Screenshot 2019-05-21 at 12.58.45.png

Simple 3dB dipole VHF AIS Marine Aerial from co-ax cable

Here’s how we make an AIS tuned 3dB gain VHF aerial using RF-coax cable.
Buy a 5 or 10m length of  50 ohm RF coax cable with bnc connectors already attached – this makes two – http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00JVUP0L4. Cut to required length. Strip back the outer coating at the cut end to a length of 44.4cm + 5cm to make a loop (1/4wave for AIS frequencies). Pull the inner core through the outer sheath and lay the outer sheath back along the length of the coax and trim to 44.4cm. I add a couple of cm to the length so I can bend the tip of the inner core back on itself to hook it over something. Make sure the length of the inner is 44.4cm excluding the looped over end. Cover in heat shrink wrap if you want to make it waterproof and you have a 3dB gain AIS Aerial.
There is a useful video here showing how to do it here :-
and a photo of a 5m long one we made earlier. This one had a range of over 25NM when we put it on the 20th floor of a high rise in Singapore.
Screen Shot 2016-04-08 at 15.07.39

You could also go one step further and make a 6dB  collinear like this from Neil Arundale (I have made and used one of these too and it compared equally with a £120 commercial collinear).

I hope that this inspires someone. If you get connected up please consider sharing your AIS data with us. We can provide a dedicated port and web view for your data.

New Zealand and Finland Marine Charts for SeaNav

SeaNav now has seamless official raster (RNC) charts available for download for the whole of New Zealand and Finland. You can use all SeaNav’s route planning, POI and live navigation tools and display on top of the charts like you can with the existing vector charts.

Charts are automatically installed and saved as you browse and zoom in on SeaNav and you can also download all the charts in a map region for offline use ( no internet connection) in a single go.

Zoom right in to get fantastic detail on the charts. Here’s the marina in Auckland with live AIS ship positions overlaid:-

Here is Finland showing the chart coverage (outlined in red):-

and here is Helsinki zoomed in about half way:-

And zoomed close in at the beautiful Aaland islands between Finland and Sweden

You can find the new raster charts listed under SeaNav/Settings/SeaNav Chart Store in the new “Raster section at the bottom”.  A yearly subscription also provides ongoing chart updates from the Finnish and New Zealand Hydrographic offices. Get SeaNav for free from the app store and download  the new chart IAPs now:-https://itunes.apple.com/app/seanav/id857841271

Danish Vector Marine charts for SeaNav

Danish charts are now available in SeaNav. The vector marine charts are licensed and derived from the official Danish Hydrographic Office data. These cover the whole of the European Danish waters. Please see the coverage map below.

Coverage Map for Danish charts:

Here is a close up on the iPhone showing the approach to Copenhagen. Being  vector charts, all chart objects are tappable to give more information. This includes names and types as well as distance and bearing from your position. Sectored lights also show the colours, range and sector angle when tapped.

SeaNav also has complete live Ship (AIS) coverage for the whole of Denmark. Here is an example in the Aabenraa Fjord showing the Maureen S. just departed on her way to Germany.

SeaNav now has UK, IE, NL, BE, FR, DE, ES, US and CA charts available with complete coverage across the English Channel  and we now have continuous coverage from Nantes in France through Belgium and the Netherlands, across Denmark and Germany including the German inland waterways.  Current European chart coverage is outlined in red below.

Norwegian charts are also available for free in SeaNav’s sister app, NaviPlotter by Nautisk (same app as SeaNav but with different branding and additional Norwegian charts from the Norwegian HO).

The Danish charts and others can be obtained via a simple In App Purchase (IAP ) in SeaNav and SeaNav UK. All SeaNav charts are regularly updated while you have a valid chart subscription in place. You can read more about SeaNav and how to download our free version here –  SeaNav