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Standard Horizon GX6000 bad and good news, plus new HX890 and HX40

What the heck? An AIS transceiver with a decent antenna up reasonably high can see other AIS transceivers fairly far away, but not 3,508 nautical miles! What’s actually illustrated here was a Standard Horizon GX6000 mistranslating AIS target positions into NMEA 2000, as strongly suggested by the photo below. But as bad as that glitch was, there’s already a firmware fix and the way the update operation works has further benefits.

Here’s the GX6000 I began testing in June photographed at the same time I grabbed the Garmin 742 screen at top. Note the realistic bearings and distances for vessels like S/Y Angel and Snow Star.  This evidence that the radio was properly decoding AIS signals even while both Garmin and Raymarine MFDs showed screwy target positions strongly indicated that NMEA 2000 translation was the problem, though I did not know for sure that it wasn’t caused by some wackiness on Gizmo’s complicated N2K network when I reported the issue to Standard Horizon. They didn’t seem to know either, at least at first, but a few weeks later they sent an update for testing.

I once updated a Simrad RS35 VHF/AISrx radio over N2K using an SD card and a Simrad MFD, but marine radios are not usually upgradeable in the field, and the Standard Horizon process is easily the most sophisticated I know of. You do need to link a Windows PC to the GX6000’s USB port and download the firmware updates and the YCE08 software found under the Files tab at SH’s GX6000 web page, but then the possibilities even get fun.



So the top two images illustrate the update process, which did indeed fix the GX6000’s NMEA 2000 AIS output so that targets now display correctly on Gizmo’s Garmin and Raymarine MFDs. I don’t know what V2.00.03 Radio update did — and it would be nice if Standard Horizon was more informative about releasing new updates and what they do — but maybe I’ll notice in further testing.

And now the fun part: As shown on the lower screens, the YCE software lets you download the current settings of the radio, modify them easily using the PC’s big screen and keyboard, and then upload them back to the radio. It’s already nice, I think, that the GX6000 already allows you custom configure the Soft Keys, Channel Names, and more, but that’s all much easier with the PC software. And it could be terrific for, say, a fleet manager setting up multiple radios optimized for particular boating tasks. And similar software is available for the existing HX870 handheld and the brand new HX890.

New HX handhelds

I have not seen any publicity about them, but the HX890 Handheld VHF/GPS and the HX40 Ultra Compact Handheld are not only detailed at StandardHorizon.com but in stock at various outlets for about $270 and $170 respectively. The new feature I really like is that both can be tuned to the FM broadcast band. While that means you’re no longer monitoring the VHF band, you can sweep the FM band for available stations which you can save as presets, and even the little (and long gone) SH HX471S I still have sounds pretty good, especially for news and/or talk radio when, say, you’re on a project up the mast.

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Standard Horizon Matrix AIS/GPS and Raymarine Ray260 AIS/N2K VHF radios
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Ben Ellison

Ben Ellison

Panbo editor, publisher & chief bottlewasher since 4/12/2005, and now excited to have Ben Stein as a very able colleague. Panbo is going to the next level in 2018 and beyond.

4 Responses

  1. Kai CurryKai Curry says:

    That AIS target screen reminds me of all the boats that have improperly programmed AIS transponders. The USCG has a handy Encoding Guide https://www.navcen.uscg.gov/pdf/AIS/AISGuide.pdf. The most obvious is the entry for “S/Y ANGEL”.
    Names should not include vessel type precursors, e.g. F/V, M/V, MV, OSV, P/V, REC, S/V, T/B; except public vessels, e.g. CG, CBP, USN, LAPD, NYFD, WSF. Because AIS has specific field for vessel type including it in the name is not necessary. It’s up to the client/receiver display to properly distinguish the targets with labels, flags, colors or other distinguishing marks.

    Remove those precursors folks. Did I see a “M/V GIZMO” the last time I was in Camden? 😉

  2. Guilty as charged, Kai, but let’s discuss.

    First of all, I’ve yet to hear of the Coast Guard asking any M/V, S/Y, F/V etc. to clean up its AIS name, and it wouldn’t be hard to do. One thing I’m doing by voluntarily using a Class B AIS is to make my vessel and personal contact info easily available to the authorities, and I’m happy to do so as I think it can help them keep things safe and orderly.

    Second, I think that having S/Y, F/V etc. in vessel names actually helps situational awareness, as vessel names are usually easier to see than the other details (which do of course include types like sailing, pleasure, fishing etc.). Then again some displays, like Raymarine’s, can optionally use target icons that reference the Vessel Type, though I don’t think that’s allowed on type approved displays.

    I don’t have such ambivalence about any other aspect of the encoding guide you linked to, which, incidentally, seems pretty strongly aimed at commercial shipping using Class A AIS. And it’s great that valuable Class A data points like Destination and Navigation Status are accurate for many more vessels than they used to be.

    All that said, “M/V Gizmo” may become “Gizmo” this winter 😉

    • Kai CurryKai Curry says:

      I think it’s great you transmit AIS. Thanks to everyone that does! Slightly misconfigured AIS is way better than no AIS at all! I appreciate AIS enough that I’m a mobile AIS to internet relay station for AIS Hub, Marine Traffic and others.

      I found a tool https://www.navcen.uscg.gov/aisSearch/index.php that will allow you to search AIS records and give a notice of errors found in the configuration. Interestingly the tool says a value of 0 for antenna position is incorrect. I’ll have to investigate if it’s assumption of a NULL value instead of an actual 0 value. What’s one to do if the antenna is mounted on the stern quarter?

      If I’m making a DSC transmission to Angel and wish to search in a long alphabetical list of AIS targets I do not necessarily think to look in the “S” section.

      I’ve seen pilot software like SEAiq use little colored flags to distinguish the moving triangles. I’d like to see vendors spend more effort on making AIS display more useful. B&G/Simrad plotters don’t even have an option to display the name next to the triangle on chart view.

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