Tagged: automatic identification system

K2NCC’s Guide to AIS Reporting for the RTL-SDR

AIS enthusiast K2NCC has posted in our forum a link to a PDF document he has created showing how to use SDR#, AISMon and AIS Dispatcher to report AIS data to marinetraffic.com and aishub.net. Marinetraffic.com and Aishub.net are websites which aggregate AIS data from various contributors around the world.

AIS is an acronym for Automatic Identification System and is a type of modern GPS based radar system similar to ADS-B used by mariners to help avoid collisions at sea.

Map from Aishub.net
Map from Aishub.net

2-Channel AIS Receiver with RTL-SDR and GNUAIS

Blogger OZ9AEC has written a post on his blog showing how he made a 2-channel AIS receiver using the RTL-SDR, GNU Radio and GNUAis. AIS is a radio protocol used by boats to broadcast their position and speed which is then used to create a type of radar system to help avoid collisions. AIS signals are transmitted periodically on one of two channels. Two channels are used to improve capacity and help avoid interference if two signals from different boats are broadcast at the same time.

Before this, most AIS receiver implementations we’d seen that used the RTL-SDR received only on a single channel. OZ9AEC’s GNU Radio program receives on both channels simultaneously like a commercial AIS receiver does and is thus a better receiver. He eventually plans to get this receiver to run on a Beaglebone.

See his post for instructions and to download the GRC files.

Update: Another AIS decoder known as gr-ais is also capable of 2 channel AIS, and bristromat from Reddit has written a tutorial on setting it up and running it with OpenCPN.

Two channel AIS Block Diagram

RTL-SDR Tutorial: Cheap AIS Ship Tracking

Large ships and passenger boats are required to broadcast an identification signal containing position, course, speed, destination, and vessel dimension information to help prevent sea collisions. This system is known as the “Automatic Identification System” or AIS for short. There are dedicated AIS receivers intended to be used on boats, or by hobbyists, but they can be expensive. A radio scanner, or the cheap RTL-SDR software defined radio (or a more advanced SDR such an Airspy) can be used to receive these signals, and with the help of decoding software, ship positions can be plotted on a map.

This tutorial will show you how to set up an AIS receiver with the RTL-SDR. Most parts of this tutorial are also applicable to other software radios, such as the Funcube dongle, Airspy and HackRF, or even regular hardware scanners if a discriminator tap is used, but the RTL-SDR is the cheapest option.

Safety Warning: This probably should not be used a navigational aid on a boat as the field reliability of the RTL-SDR or other software radios is not proven. This guide is intended for land based scanner hobbyists.

Note, tracking ships with AIS is very similar to tracking aircraft with ADS-B, which is another project that may interest you.

Examples of AIS received with RTL-SDR

An AIS radar example is shown by YouTube user Vinicius Lenci who uses an RTL-SDR, SDRSharp and ShipPlotter. This video also shows what a strong AIS signal sounds like.

Recebendo sinais (AIS) com RTL-SDR

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