Using AIS Share, OpenCPN and an RTL-SDR on a Sailboat

AIS Share is an app for Android that allows you to turn an Android device into an AIS receiver by using an RTL-SDR. 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.

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.

Recently the author of the app received word from a user called Harmen who has successfully been using his AIS Share app on his sailboat. Harmen uses the app on an Android tablet which is enclosed in a waterproof box. For an antenna he uses a coax collinear.

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.

AIS Share Receiver on the sailboat in a waterproof case.
AIS Share Receiver on the sailboat in a waterproof case.
The back of the Android Tablet, showing the RTL-SDR and the antenna connection.
The back of the Android Tablet, showing the RTL-SDR and the antenna connection.
The AIS Share main screen GUI.
The AIS Share main screen GUI.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ApGk8P82THs (Unfortunately the video has been removed)

6 comments

  1. Fernando

    Hi,

    I searched ppm using sdr touch and the result is -1200. When I try this value in ais share I get an error. I supose that value is out of range.

  2. Alfonso

    Thank for your work.
    I have been testing your app and I got ais reports fron ships.
    The statistics in your app showed that but I was unable to conect the data to opencpn.
    In Opencpn I add a connection to 127.0.0.1 port 10110 and that ip and port was also configured in your app. Both apps Opencpn and Ais share are Android apps. My tablet is an BQ Edison 3 mini. What am I doing wrong?
    Thanks in advance
    Alfonso

  3. neo

    1) I would use an LNA + Filter
    2) How about an List when other Ships cross my Path? Like:
    Ship XY Possible Collision in X Km.
    Ship XY come near your Ship in X Km.

    An “range warning” would be also nice to have.

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