Features March 2007 Issue

Ocean Tested: Automated Identification System (AIS) for Recreational Boats

Across 2,500 miles, Nasaís AIS Radar proves itself to be a handy marine safety tool. The UK-made AIS receiver is no substitute for conventional radar or a sharp lookout, but it can help the recreational sailor avoid collisions.

Starting in 2002, the SOLAS regulations (chapter V, regulation 19) required that all ships over 300 gross tons carry and operate at all times an Automated Identification System. The shipboard AIS sends brief broadcasts on a VHF radio frequency with the shipís information, including the vesselís name, latitude and longitude, course over ground, speed over ground, heading, status, and Maritime Mobile Service Identity (MMSI) number. The broadcasts happen every few seconds. Last summer, we got a chance to try an AIS receiver on a 2,500-mile trip from Baltimore, Md., to Bermuda, Nova Scotia, Maine, and back to Baltimore. For the trip, we installed the Nasa Marine AIS Radar. In this case, Nasa Marine is not NASA (the U.S. space agency), but is instead a British company known for low-cost marine instruments.

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