The U.S. AIS B problem, a Shiney smart workaround
Excellent news: Shine Micro has figured out a way to ship its Class B AIS securely locked into silent mode (receive only) so that it’s legal here in the U.S.A., even though the FCC commissioners continue to drag their feet on Class B approval. The idea is that you can install a high quality, true dual-channel AIS receiver now and as soon as the FCC relents you’ll be able to unlock the unit’s transmitter via an online activation scheme. Shine Micro is even sharing some of the “risk” of this proposition, not collecting $200 of the cost until said activation, as explained here.
Note that the RadarPlus AIS-BX is the same as the yellow True Heading unit I set up in the lab last summer (and am still waiting to test!). In fact it’s completely built by Software Radio Technology, the U.K. firm that produces the internal electronics for all (I think) the Class B AIS models so far approved outside the U.S. and by the U.S. Coast Guard. What Shine Micro adds to the product is its online MMSI acquisition and activation system, which it’s been working on since well before the FCC put a brake on everything. Shine Micro also carries an extensive selection of antennas, cables, and accessories, some of which you’ll need for the RadarPlus AIS-BX, which comes plain at that $799 price. You can shop elsewhere for the antennas too, though I’ve heard good reports on the Morad dedicated AIS stick. However you do it, you can have AIS targets and WAAS GPS running to both an MFD and a computer charting program now, and, without any hardware changes, add the transponder functionality the day after the FCC makes it legal. I’m hoping that all the Class B brands adopt this strategy but they will probably need to develop secure remote activation to do so. Which means that the RadarPlus AIS-BX has just become the AIS receiver of choice for every U.S. boater anxious to become more than an AIS listener. (Big head’s up to Navagear, which broke this story and has also become one of my Mad Mariner blog colleagues.)
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