AIS part 1 – many ways of getting onboard

ANT200Installing an Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) is becoming a mainstream option for yachts. Prices are dropping and AIS equipment is evolving, resulting in a greater variety of instruments on the market. That variety will no doubt increase further, but we can see distinct categories of AIS equipment emerge.

For those looking to invest in a system, we’re going examine those categories in a series of six posts. We will look at the full gamut of equipment, ranging from economical class B receive-only units through AIS integrated with Radio Receivers and Chart Plotters, right up to standalone class A systems.

There is already so much choice that we won’t be able to cover every available unit, but we will highlight representative equipment and discuss which features to look for.

This week, we’ll start off by asking some questions and providing some background reading. Next week, we’ll get stuck right into practical options, their pros and cons..

When considering the installation of an AIS system, you’ll need to ask yourself some pertinent questions:

Question : Do I want to install yet another antenna on my boat?

Question : Do I want to just be able to "see other boats" with AIS (Receiver), or for them to "see me" as well (Transponder)?

Question : Do I want a system with an independent display of vessels, or one that integrates with my existing chart plotter?

Question : Should I just consider class B units?

In the next five posts here, I hope we can supply enough information to help you make the right choice when selecting an AIS unit for your boat.

While you’re waiting for our next installment, here are some interesting links with information about the history and operation of AIS.

Wikipedia’s comprehensive entry on AIS – Link
The US Coast Guard’s Navigation Center – Link
SOLAS regulation for the carriage of AIS – Link


Next: AIS Part 2 – Class B Receivers, the choice is yours

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