AirNav Systems are behind the RadarBox ADS-B tracking aggregator, one of several companies that use data obtained by volunteers running RTL-SDR dongles to collect ADS-B flight data from all over the world.
Recently they've launched a new project called ShipXplorer.com which is a marine AIS aggregation service. Like RadarBox, ShipXplorer relies on volunteers running receiver stations all around the world. AIS is an acronym for 'Automatic Identification System', and in a similar way to ADS-B on aircraft, AIS allows the real time tracking of marine vessel positions.
To help enthusiasts with AIS reception, AirNav have also launched an AIS optimized RTL-SDR dongle. At the moment we're not exactly sure how this dongle works, as it advertises NMEA output with no add-on programs required. So this may imply it has some onboard processing. But reviews imply that it is just an RTL-SDR dongle with TCXO. We are currently inquiring with AirNav Systems. UPDATE: We have clarified with AirNav and confirmed that the dongle is an RTL-SDR dongle with AIS modifications (LNA & TCXO). There is no onboard processing and the advertising text was an error.
AirNav Systems write:
Some great news on a new product we've been developing for the last year and that's just been released.
As you know our company has been in the industry for over 20 years, offering innovative and unique flight (RadarBox) tracking solutions. We supply multi-million USD companies with reliable/accurate worldwide real-time flight information and the RadarBox.com portal has now over 1.3 million accounts registered.
I'm reaching out to you to introduce you to AirNav System's ship tracker, ShipXplorer.com, which we launched a few months ago
ShipXplorer is a vessel tracking website that tracks global vessel movements in real time. ShipXplorer was developed to cater to the increasing navigational and tracking challenges faced by the maritime industry. In addition to offering professional maritime tracking solutions, the platform is also available for public use, with features and services specially developed for the burgeoning maritime enthusiast and vessel spotting community.
In addition to our recently launched ship tracking portal, we have a variety of AIS hardware, such as dongles and AIS antennas.
ShipXplorer AIS Dongle:
This high-performance dual channel AIS USB Receiver decodes AIS transmissions and enables the reception of AIS messages and data directly onto devices such as a Raspberry Pi or Laptop.
ShipXplorer AIS Antenna: ShipXplorer's omnidirectional AIS Antenna is optimized for long-range, dual channel (Channel A and B) 162 MHz VHF reception. It also ships with a 30 ft cable (SMA connector). Meant for outdoor use, this antenna is built with a fiberglass & aluminum alloy and can weather prolonged exposure to the elements.
ShipXplorer Sea Range AIS Receiver:
SeaRange is ShipXplorer's newest 162 MHz, dual channel, AIS receiver. This brand-new model includes an added filter and an inbuilt amplifier designed to optimize AIS reception on both 162.025 MHz & 161.975 MHz frequencies.
And we are currently working on expanding our AIS coverage globally.
AIS stands for Automatic Identification System and is used by marine vessels to broadcast their GPS locations in order to help avoid collisions and aide with rescues. An RTL-SDR with the right software can be used to receive and decode these signals, and plot ship positions on a map.
Jasper notes that his software was intended to be a platform for him to experiment with different receiving model algorithms. On the GitHub readme he explains how he's experimented with a coherent demodulation model that estimates the phase offset, a non-coherent model which is similar to what most existing decoders use, a modified non-coherent model with aggressive PLL, and an FM discriminator model which assumes the input is the output of an FM discriminator.
The readme goes on to show some comparison results indicating that the coherent model is the best although it uses 20% more computation time. He also compares AIS-Catcher against some other AIS decoders like AISRec and rtl-ais, showing that AIS-Catcher appears to be comparable or better than AISRec, which is one of the most sensitive decoders available for SDR dongles.
A Windows binary is provided on the releases page and compilation instructions for Linux are provided on the Github Readme.
Ships also has another interesting feature which is that it will automatically determine the PPM offset of a dongle, meaning that generic dongles without TCXO’s can be easily used for AIS. It appears to do this by using the AIS signals themselves, so you will need sufficient AIS traffic in your area for the calibration to work.
AIS stands for Automatic Identification System, and is a system used to track the locations of marine vessels. It is similar to ADS-B in that nearby ships can be plotted and tracked on a map by using an RTL-SDR as the receiver. We have a tutorial for PC available here.
Over on YouTube user Tobias Härling has uploaded a video showing how he used a Raspberry Pi and RTL-SDR dongle to set up an AIS receiver. AIS stands for Automatic Identification System and is a radio system similar to ADS-B which allows you to create a radar-like system for boats. For Windows we have a tutorial on AIS reception here.
In his setup he uses rtl_ais and the kplex software and shows how to install everything from scratch. He also shows how to set the system up so that decoding automatically starts up and begins outputing NMEA data through the network when the Raspberry Pi is powered on. This way an a device like an iPad could be used to run OpenCPN to view the plotted ships.
AIS Share is a dual channel decoder that outputs decoded NMEA messages via UDP, so that plotting software like OpenCPN can be used to display the ships on a map. AIS Share had been around before in another form known as rtl_ais_android which we posted before, but this version of AIS Share is a newly updated and improved version that now includes a very nice GUI. The app costs about $2 and is available on the Google Play store, but there is a demo available that will work up until 1000 messages are received. You will need an RTL-SDR and a USB OTG cable to run the app.
In the future the author writes that he’d like to update the app to support things like the ability to change more dongle settings like bandwidth/sample rate and add the possibility of using the internal phone/tablet GPS. He is also open to any community suggestions.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApGk8P82THs (Unfortunately the video has been removed)
A reader of our blog, EBC81, has written in to let us know about a new RTL-SDR based AIS decoder that he has written for the Android OS. AIS stands for Automatic Identification System and is used by ships to broadcast their GPS locations, to help avoid collisions and aid with rescues. An RTL-SDR with the right software can be used to receive and decode these signals, and plot ship positions on a map.
EBC81’s program is called rtl_ais_android and can be downloaded from this GitHub link. It decodes the AIS data into NMEA messages, which can then be sent via UDP to mapping programs in Android or a program like OpenCPN on your PC. To use the app you will need a USB OTG cable to connect your Android device to the RTL-SDR.
In the future EBC81 hopes to create a second app which will display the ship positions on a map.