Panbo

Category: AIS

AMEC NK-80 0183/N2K adaptor, and Milltech's 7th year of AIS

Aug 13, 2012
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It looks like Actisense has some serious competition when it comes to translating data back forth from NMEA 0183 to NMEA 2000. And while that's not a sexy marine electronics topic, it's an important one as many boats use a changing mix of the two protocols. The AMEC NK-80 adaptor above was recently NMEA 2000 certified and it seems quite able. If you go to the NK-80 page of Milltech Marine -- which helped develop the product and distributes it in the U.S. -- you can download the manual and thus check out the nitty-gritty of specific data fields translated. What I notice is that the NK-80 seems to cover every AIS PGN and lots more, which seems to be a problem for the otherwise able Actisense NGW-1 series of adaptors...

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MarineTraffic.com, appreciating the nuances

Aug 3, 2012
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"Panbo is great, but Ben is so nuts about AIS!"  That's some feedback from an electronics installer that a friend passed along and I can only plead guilty. In fact, it's getting worse. Sure, I'd like to think that I recognized the safety value of AIS early and that all my reporting on the birth and proliferation of Class B transponder has been worthwhile. And you'll hear about more testing of the new AIS SARTs and MoB devices soon. But recently I've also been getting deep into the fun side of the technology -- dare we call it social media? -- and I want to share some things I've learned about MarineTraffic.com...

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Em-Trak I100 Identifier, will AIS "be a victim of its own popularity"?

Jul 9, 2012
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Though it looks like a commercial-grade AIS SART meant only for emergencies, the Em-Trak I100 Identifier is actually a special purpose Class B AIS transponder "suitable for even the smallest vessel." It's completely self-contained, with GPS and VHF antennas and a Lithium-Ion battery all packed inside that orange 14-inch tall waterproof casing. Once charged ashore in that AC cradle, you just twist lock the Identifier into the special pole bracket at right and it will automatically turn itself on and transmit standard Class B boat id and position messages for about five days. I haven't actually tested the Em-Trak I100 in a kayak, but it certainly seems up to the challenge...

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AIS MOB devices, we're in the learning phase!

Jun 13, 2012
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One of the great things about the new AIS MoB beacons, like the recently FCC-approved Kannad SafeLink R10, is that they can send a short test signal over the air so that you can see how well your AIS plotter has been programmed to deal with one. But the fact that I've been encouraging folks to do just that makes it even more imperative that I report on a bug in very recent Garmin MFD software versions 7.30 7.20, 4.30 4.20, and 3.80 3.70. (See comments on the R10 entry above for more detail, but you probably don't have the bug unless you updated your Garmin in last few weeks). While Garmin purportedly did a great job of programming its displays to respond usefully to an AIS MoB, apparently the test signal from an R10 can cause its MFDs to shut down, which was just discovered in Newport where the Bermuda Race fleet is gathering...

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AIS over NMEA 2000, the shame sheet!

Jun 11, 2012
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It was a beautiful weekend in Maine, and we deserved one, but sorry to report that there were sighs and curses of surprise and disappointment emanating from the good vessel Gizmo. I may be late with this year's (way over the top ;-) electronics installations, but that's what Gizmo is about, and I was looking forward to seeing how a new-to-me Em-Trak B100 Class B AIS transponder would work with a wide variety of displays that could use its NMEA 2000 output. As discussed here last June, the B100 is a compact, feature-rich, affordable transponder, especially compared to some others with N2K output. And while there was a glitch in early implementations of AIS over NMEA 2000, I had presumed that the major manufacturers involved had worked that out. Damn it, I was wrong...

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AIShub, how you too can put AIS targets online

May 11, 2012
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At the end of Wednesday's discussion about cell-based mAIS -- which only works via the Internet instead of direct VHF radio transmissions -- I mentioned how I'd set up a real AIS receiver in my lab to forward real AIS target info to those same Internet services. In fact most all the actual AIS targets shown in those screen shots came through my basement. The set up turned out to be very easy and cost nothing as I already had an AIS receiver, a computer, and an Internet connection. The key is the free program AISdispatcher seen in the foreground above, which is offered by AIS Hub data sharing center. That's their Web site in the background, showing the data I'm contributing along with that of other volunteer stations. But there are lots of holes in the coverage and I'm hoping that more coastal residents and particularly marine businesses will volunteer, and I think that the new mAIS concept could make the effort especially worthwhile... 

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Boat Beacon & MarineTraffic mAIS, yipee or yike?

May 9, 2012
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At first Boat Beacon may look like yet another iPad or iPhone app for viewing online AIS tracking services like ShipFinder, but in fact it's a very new and slightly disconcerting form of AIS transponder. In other words that "Panbo BoatBeaconTest" target seen above is not the test transponder I sometimes run in the lab but simply my iPad running Boat Beacon and using its online connection to send my position, MMSI, and "boat" data to a central server where it's also getting the regular AIS data for those various vessels in the Bay. The concept doesn't really have a name yet -- except maybe for mobile AIS or mAIS, as I'll get to -- but I think it's going be huge, and also confusing... 

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The Aegean loss, would AIS have helped?

Apr 30, 2012
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It is quite chilling to see this photo of the Hunter 376 Aegean taken at the Friday start of the Newport to Ensenada Race (by Susan Hoffman) with the knowledge that the boat was "smashed to bits" that night and that all four crew were lost. We may never know exactly what happened, but the folks who found what was left seem convinced that Aegean was run over by a much larger vessel and some of the reports claim that she was in or near a shipping lane (though I don't see it marked on any chart I have). While I certainly don't want to question the wisdom of a skipper/owner who was reportedly scrupulous about safety issues or a race committee that hasn't had a prior fatality in the 65 year history of this event, don't we have to wonder if AIS could have helped?...

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Kannad R10 AIS MoB beacon gets FCC approval, but not easily!

Apr 26, 2012
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Kannad Marine's SafeLink R10 SRS (for Survivor Rescue System) just received FCC approval, and it's about time given that this personal AIS SART was introduced in Miami more than a year ago!  But let's give Kannad a break as getting innovative safety hardware like this through the approval process is not trivial. Just skimming through all the documents filed with the FCC was an eye opener, and the company had already spent many months (and dollars) getting EU approval.  Before discussing those details, though, let's look at how easy-to-use yet capable the finished product is. The collage above illustrates the activation process (click on it for a bigger image) and I personally love how a bit of cord is rigged both to keep all of the R10 attached to your life jacket or clothing and to remove the orange Arming Tag and the red Activation Cap in two quick motions. It's also key to the automatic activation possible when the four ounce R10 is "professionally fitted" to certain inflatable life jackets (as detailed on Kannad's R10 web page...

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Whale Alert, an app with a mission

Apr 7, 2012
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It's an unusual app that gets a press conference and main stream media attention, and Whale Alert certainly deserves it. It's not just that this app might actually save the lives of some rare right whales -- which would be wonderful -- but it also demonstrates how mobile devices can be a critical integration tool between mariners and various governmental and nonprofit agencies, and between even a big ship's conservative electronics and the dynamic world of app development...

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