Email us: info@picosense.com.au
Phone: 0409 270 862

Brisbane, QLD, Australia

Frequently Asked Questions - All FAQs

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The marine Automatic Identification System (AIS) is a location and vessel information reporting system. It allows vessels equipped with AIS to automatically and dynamically share and regularly update their position, speed, course and other information such as vessel identity with similarly equipped vessels. Position is derived from GLONASS or GPS and communication between vessels is by Very High Frequency (VHF) digital transmissions.

The A100 is a Class A AIS device. Class A units are designed to be fitted to commercial vessels such as cargo ships and large passenger vessels. Class A transceivers transmit at a higher VHF signal power than class B transceivers and therefore can be received by more distant vessels, and also transmit more frequently. Class A transceivers are mandatory on all vessels over 300 gross tonnes on international voyages and certain types of passenger vessels under the SOLAS mandate.

Product Link : Class A : AIS A100

Yes, you can. The A100 is supplied with a junction box that allows the user to connect a variety of external equipment/sensors/displays via NMEA0183.

Product Link: Class A : AIS A100

The A100 does not feature NMEA2000 connectivity, however NMEA0183 to NMEA2000 adaptors are available online from companies like www.actisense.com

The A100 is rated to IP52 standard which means it is designed with some resistance to dust and dripping water ingress.

The A100 has an RS232 port on the back of the unit. This connection allows direct connection to a PC RS232 interface and can be used for installation, diagnostics or external display connection. If your PC/Laptop does not have an 9 pin RS232 port, then it is possible to purchase a serial to USB port adaptor from companies like www.easysync-ltd.com

Once the MMSI number has been set in your A100, you will only be able to delete/edit this number if you know the A100s password. If you have lost/forgotten your password, please contact PicoSense for advice.

The A100 Class A, AIS Transceiver will receive Message 17 data, provided it is in range of a base station outputting this information.

Message 17 is only transmitted by base stations and as such it is not transmitted by Class A devices.

The data contained in the message is used solely for correcting the location of the receiving unit (in this case the A100). This being the case, the received data is only used for the units own GPS receiver corrections. This (potentially) corrected information is then used in the receiving vessels A100 location.

It’s also worth mentioning that whilst Class A equipment standards dictate that a Class A cannot receive corrections from SBAS satellites directly, the unit can still receive and accept a differentially corrected signal by:

– Connecting a DGPS beacon receiver to the DGPS port of the junction box
– Connecting an external GPS receiver that either has a built in DGPS receiver or has the ability to receive SBAS corrections

This information can then be used by the A100 and also output (as required) via the units Pilot and Serial connections.

IMO regulations on the use of Class A AIS transceivers state that Class A units must be connected to their own VHF antenna and must not share a VHF antenna with other devices. This being the case, you must not use an antenna splitter to connect your A100 to an existing antenna system.

 

The A100 will send its information at varying intervals, depending on a number of factors related to a vessels status and its speed.
When a Class A equipped vessel is at anchor and moving slower than 3 knots, it will transmit once every three minutes. When the same vessel moves faster than 3 knots, it will automatically recognise that it needs to (transmit) its information more frequently and will increase the number of times it sends its position information to as often as once every two seconds, without the need for the user/operator to make any changes.

The marine Automatic Identification System (AIS) is a location and vessel information reporting system. It allows vessels equipped with AIS to automatically and dynamically share and regularly update their position, speed, course and other information such as vessel identity with similarly equipped vessels. Position is derived from the Global Positioning System (GPS) and communication between vessels is by Very High Frequency (VHF) digital transmissions.

The B100 is a Class AIS Transceiver. Class B transceivers are similar to class A transceivers in many ways, but are normally lower cost due to the less stringent performance requirements. Class B transceivers like the B100 transmit at a lower power and at a lower reporting rate than class A transceivers.

Due to regulatory reasons, Class B AIS users are not permitted to reset their own MMSI number.
If you need to edit or change your MMSI number for any reason, please contact us for advice on how to proceed.

Yes. The B100 has a USB connection on its front. Please be aware that we occasionally hear from customers who have experienced unit failures when a unit has been powered by 12/24V whilst also being connected to a PC/Laptop.

The reason for this is that the USB port built into this product is not isolated from the vessel power supply, VHF antenna ground or GPS antenna ground. This being the case, we advise you to observe the following procedures when connecting the USB port to avoid grounding problems:
– If the computer is permanently installed on the vessel and/ or electrically connected to any other vessel equipment, including power supplies, it is recommended that connection is made using NMEA0183 or NMEA2000 connections.   These benefit from being specifically designed for use in the marine environment and provide isolated and robust communication between your devices.
– If a battery powered laptop is being used then it is recommended to switch off the computer, connect the USB cable, then switch on the laptop.  This will help to ensure that all equipment grounds are correctly referenced before use, minimising any risk of equipment damage.

Yes. The B100 has NMEA2000 connectivity as standard.

We occasionally get messages from our customers to ask why, when they have their B100 connected to their Chartplotter/MFD via NMEA200, they are not able to see remote targets vessel names (but they can see vessel MMSI numbers and locations)

The reason this happens is that AIS name messages were added to the NMEA2000 specification relatively recently (2010) as it took some time for the NMEA standards organization to define the message structure. Prior to this, individual manufacturers (Simrad / Garmin / Raymarine etc) adopted their own proprietary messages for Class B vessel names on an NMEA2000 network. This meant that their own AIS equipment could communicate with their own displays, but created compatibility problems between manufacturers.

The B100 is fully certified by NMEA for NMEA2000 operation and uses all of the standardized message structures, including those for Class B vessel data, so will connect to compatible systems via an NMEA2000 backbone.

To resolve the issue, there are a couple of things you can try..

1 – You can try contacting the manufacturer of your Chartplotter/MFD to see if there is a software update available to add support for the new AIS message

2 – If no update is available, you should be able to connect the B100 to your chartplotter/MFD via NMEA0183 which is not affected by this issue and should give you full target information.

There are a multitude of charting software applications now available on the market for Laptops, PCs and Tablets, so we’re often asked about how to integrate our B100 to these setups to allow users to also see AIS targets on their displays. With this in mind, we thought it might be useful to give you a few “points to note” when seeking to connect em-trak devices to PCs/Laptops.

1 – USB connection: The USB connection supplied on the B100 is primarily intended for the user to use during the configuration phase, however this USB connectivity lends itself to use with PCs and laptops as well.

2 – Open connections: With other chart software applications that are compatible with the B100, it is not possible to connect the device to more than one application at a time. So if you have the unit connected to the ProAIS2 configuration software, you must disconnect the unit from that application to be able to connect to another.

3 – Compatibility: Check the specification of your charting software to ensure that it is able to decode AIS messages (VDMs). Some systems do not incorporate this functionality, so if unsure, check the software user manual or contact the charting company to confirm if the software is capable of displaying AIS targets. The B100 conforms to all relevant standards regarding NMEA outputs, so it will be able to provide the raw data your charting software will require if it is able to use AIS information.

4 – Baud rate: Always check to ensure that your software is configured to accept AIS data at 38400 baud (as output from the B100s USB).

5 – Product setup: In order for your B100 to provide enough power to operate the GPS antenna, it must be connected to a 12V power supply as there’s not enough juice in the USB power supply to allow the B100 to act as anything more than a receiver. If the unit can receive information from other vessels (including their position), then it will also need to be able to obtain its own GPS fix in order to know where it is in relation to other vessels. Once it has all of this information, it should then be able to show the location of other vessels in relation to its own.
The USB power option is only really intended to aid customers with the initial configuration of the unit as the B100 will require 12V supply in order to be able to transmit and also power the GPS.

Silent mode, also known by some users as pirate mode  (when activated) allows your B100 to continue to receive information from other AIS equipped vessel around you (so you can see where they are on your own screen), but stops your own B100 from sending information (so nobody can see your position). When activated, the Blue LED on the front of the B100 is illuminated.

We recommend that B100 is only used with the S100 antenna splitter.

The B100 can be powered by USB for the purposes of configuration, however it will need to be connected to a suitable 12/24V power supply in order for it to be able to transmit AIS information and also power the built in GPS receiver. The B100 will not be able to draw enough power from a USB connection alone for it to operate normally.

If you are happy that your B100 is installed and working correctly, but you are not receiving any targets, this may not necessarily indicate a fault. There could simply be a lack of active/visible AIS targets within range, or there may be an issue caused by your choice or location of antenna.  If there is a fault with the B100, then the built in self diagnostics will alert you to any problems with the system by changing the LED status on the front of the unit.

The best way to confirm whether or not your B100 is transmitting information is to ask another AIS equipped vessel (within the near vicinity) if they can see your AIS information on their own display.
Relying on AIS websites to confirm if your vessel is working or not will not always give a clear indication if this is the case as most websites do not show real-time AIS information.

The B100 will send its position once every 3 minutes when moving less than 2 knots and once every 30 seconds when moving any faster.

Provided you have a suitable and serviceable GPS antenna connected to the B100, lack of GPS signal can be caused by factors such as installation location or even environmental factors.
The best rule of thumb to remember is that the GPS antenna should be mounted as high as possible (do not mount on the top of a high mast though as the motion of the vessel will cause the antenna to swing and potentially reduce the accuracy of the GPS position), with a clear view of the sky above and out of the direct path of RADAR or satellite communication antennas.
Please also remember that the B100 will only get a position fix when connected to its own GPS antenna. Due to regulatory reasons, it is not possible to input a GPS signal from another GPS receiver (for instance a GPS receiver already supplying GPS data on a vessels NMEA network)

The B100 is supplied with a CD that contains a piece of software called ProAIS2. You can use this software to program vessel information into your B100. Alternatively, if you live in the US where end users are not permitted to program their own Class B devices, you can either have it programmed by a qualified Marine Electronics Installer or have your retailer set this up for you.
It is also possible to program the B100 via SD card. Please contact PicoSense for advice about this service.

Most modern Chartplotters made in recent years will be AIS compatible.

Provided your Chartplotter/external display has NMEA0183/NMEA2000 connectivity and also the ability to interpret AIS VDM messages (VDM messages are received from other vessels AIS devices), then it should be able to display other vessels AIS information.

If in doubt about compatibility then please contact PicoSense for advice.

An MMSI (Maritime Mobile Service Identifier) is a nine digit number used to identify vessels and coast radio stations. The MMSI is similar to the phone number for the ships radio and can be used to place a radio call to a particular vessel. AIS systems also use MMSI numbers to identify vessels. With the exception of an AIS SART the same MMSI is used for all radio equipment on a vessel, so the AIS should be programmed with the same MMSI as the VHF radio.

The B100 is water resistant to IPx2 which means it has some limited protection from water ingress.

Yes. The B100 has two NMEA0183 ports. One set at 38400 baud and the other at 4800 baud. These baud rates can be changed though if required.

There are a set of four LEDs on the front of the B100. When the unit is working normally (that is to say it has been connected to a suitable power supply and VHF antenna, has a GPS position fix and has transmitted a position report, then the Green LED will illuminate.

The VSWR alarm usually appears when the connected VHF antenna is not performing well. This could be caused by a faulty or loose connector and damaged or faulty cable.
It can also be caused when a VHF antenna is mounted parallel to a metal surface or in proximity to a metal pole/too close to another antenna.
In some instances, the antenna itself may also be faulty. In all instances, we would advise that if you see a VSWR alarm, you check all antenna cables and connections (starting from the back of the B100), all the way to the connected antenna and then check the antenna itself to make sure it is installed as per advice in the manual and is of a suitable type.

We’re often asked by concerned customers if their B100 is faulty as they’re seeing messages like “TX Attempt failed (msg 18)” appear in the messages screen of ProAIS2. Any confusion is usually confounded by the fact that the unit appears to be working normally, so what do these messages mean?

Class B AIS (The system on which the B100 operates) is a ‘carrier sense’ system. It has to find a free slot to transmit in by listening just before transmission to check the slot is empty.

When a transmission is scheduled a block of 10 potential slots is selected. It will attempt to transmit in the first of these slots. If the slot is busy the ‘CP busy’ (meaning ‘candidate position busy’) message will be output. It will then try again in the next slot, and so on for the 10 slot block. It is quite normal to see ‘CP busy’ messages in an area where other AIS vessels are operating. It simply means the first slot selected was busy. 99% of the time the transmission will be successful in one of the other 9 slots.

So long as the indicator remains green transmissions are occurring on schedule. If transmissions can’t be made because the AIS environment is simply too busy then the indicator will turn amber (this is incredibly rare though and extremely unlikely to occur outside of lab conditions)

In summary these messages are normal and can be ignored if the indicator is green. Anything you might see in the ‘messages’ box is just for info and not a fault or alarm. If there is an active alarm or fault, then the ProAIS2 will list these in the “Alarms” window of ProAIS2.

Class B AIS is required to be fully compatible with Class A AIS to ensure information relevant to safety of navigation is visible to all AIS users. Class B AIS vessels will always be received by a Class A station and vice versa. Any filtering of vessels by AIS Class can only be achieved through charting or ECDIS software configuration which must be made by the vessels crew. In practice this filtering is not regularly applied.

There is a known issue with visibility of Class B vessel names and call signs to older Class A equipment. This situation arose because Class B AIS was developed 6 years after the introduction of Class A devices. A new AIS message was introduced for communication of vessel name and call sign from Class B AIS (message 24A and 24B) which was not included in the original Class A specification. It is important to note that this is not a limitation of em-trak Class B products, but an incompatibility introduced by the international specifications for Class B and Class A AIS devices.

This results in some older Class A units not displaying vessel name, call sign and dimensions received from Class B vessels, however critical identification and location information will always be received. This includes MMSI, Latitude, Longitude, COG and SOG. This problem can only be resolved by software update to the affected Class A equipment. Our own research has found that all Class A manufactures have an update available to address this issue. Unfortunately there is no requirement for Class A users to update their equipment so this situation is likely to persist for some time. Again it is important to note that this is not a limitation of Class B AIS, or a fault with the operation of a Class B AIS unit.

We occasionally hear from customers who have experienced unit failures when a unit has been powered by 12/24V whilst also being connected to a PC/Laptop.

The reason for this is that the USB port built into this product is not isolated from the vessel power supply, VHF antenna ground or GPS antenna ground. This being the case, we advise you to observe the following procedures when connecting the USB port to avoid grounding problems;

– If the computer is permanently installed on the vessel and/ or electrically connected to any other vessel equipment, including power supplies, it is recommended that connection is made using NMEA0183 or NMEA2000 connections.  These benefit from being specifically designed for use in the marine environment and provide isolated and robust communication between your devices.

– If a battery powered laptop is being used then it is recommended to switch off the computer, connect the USB cable, then switch on the laptop. This will help to ensure that all equipment grounds are correctly referenced before use, minimizing any risk of equipment damage.

Before your AIS unit can be used, it must first be configured with your vessel details. This information includes the Vessel name, MMSI number, Call Sign, Vessel Type and Dimensions)

If you are installing your B100 in Australia, then you are permitted to configure your AIS transceiver yourself. You can do this by connecting your B100 to a PC/Laptop via the USB connection and running the ProAIS2 software that is included on the CD that comes with your B100. Simply connect to the software, fill in the blanks and click “write configuration” and you’re done! A word of warning though. Once the MMSI number is entered and written to a unit, it cannot be changed by the end user and must be sent back to the supplier to be reset, so be careful not to make any mistakes when entering your vessel data.

The vicinity of New Zealand/Australia is known to cause problems with GPS fix when SBAS is enabled.

If you experience "position drift" or "GPS inaccuracy" You can disable SBAS manually. It can be done by sending the following sentence from the proAIS2 Serial Data tab:
$PSMT,0,0,0,1,setsbasmode 0,0*59

You can then verify that SBAS has been disabled by checking the GNSS status tab in proAIS2. When SBAS is deactivated, you should see only Green and Blue bars on the chart.

 

The marine Automatic Identification System (AIS) is a location and vessel information reporting system. It allows vessels equipped with AIS to automatically and dynamically share and regularly update their position, speed, course and other information such as vessel identity with similarly equipped vessels. Position is derived from GLONASS or GPS and communication between vessels is by Very High Frequency (VHF) digital transmissions.

The R100 is an AIS receiver. AIS receivers. AIS receivers receive transmissions from Class A transceivers, Class B transceivers, AtoNs and AIS base stations but do not transmit any information about the vessel on which they are installed.

The R100 is water resistant to IPx2 which means it has some limited protection from water ingress. That being the case we recommend that it is installed in a below decks location.

No, the R100 does not incorporate and NMEA2000 connectivity, however NMEA0183 to NMEA2000 adaptors are available online from companies like www.actisense.com

Yes. The R100 has an NMEA0183 port set at 38400 baud.

One of the most essential parts of an effective AIS system is a well-suited, well installed and fully functional VHF antenna, so it’s no surprise that we’re often asked for advice about how to ensure that this part of the system is setup properly. To try and simplify things, we’d advise that when selecting an appropriate antenna or considering using an existing antenna, you consider the following points:

1 – If an antenna works well with a VHF/DSC voice radio, this is no guarantee that it will also work well with an AIS transceiver.
2 – Use of narrow band AIS ‘tuned’ antennas are not recommended as they are optimised at the standard AIS1 and AIS2 frequencies and may not give optimum performance when regional channel settings are used.
3 – AIS optimised ‘broadband’ antennas are suitable for use; these antennas typically have a wider bandwidth to give improved performance at the top end of the VHF band where AIS usually operates.
4 – Siting of an antenna is crucial as even a well suited antenna may not radiate a good signal if installed in a poor location. Put simply, keep the antenna upright, clear of anything that could touch it (rigging/other antennas etc), keep a reasonable distance from any other devices/antenna arrays like Radar/HF/VHF radio that may be operating at high power and also keep clear of any other metallic obstructions.

If you’re still unsure of which antenna is right for you, please refer to the recommend specs below for some advice:

Typical VHF antenna specification:
Band:              Marine VHF band (nominally 156MHz to 162MHz)
Impedance:     50 Ohms
Gain:               3dBi
VSWR:           <1.5:1 at resonant frequency
Max power:     Typically >25W
Polarisation:    Vertical
Bandwidth:     Typically 6MHz
Cable:              RG58 or better. Note the IMO recommend RG214 or better for SOLAS installations
Connector:      PL-259 (sometimes called ‘UHF’)

The Identifier is a unique self-contained AIS device based on Class B AIS technology. It is designed specifically for installation on very small vessels where connection of a power supply and installation of antennas is difficult. The Identifier incorporates a complete AIS transmitter, GPS receiver, rechargeable battery pack and antennas into a robust waterproof unit.

The Identifier contains a high capacity lithium-ion battery. The Identifer can operate for up to 6 days from the battery when configured to report position every 5 minutes.

The Identifier contains an AIS transmitter, GPS receiver, rechargeable battery and antennas. When fully charged the Identifier can transmit vessel position every 5 minutes for up to 6 days. The Identifier is switched on by inserting it into the smart vessel bracket, and switched off by removing it from the smart vessel bracket.

When switched on the Identifier gets accurate position information from the built in GPS receiver and combines this with vessel information entered during configuration before transmitting AIS messages. The Identifier is designed to use very little power between transmissions to give the 6 day operating life.

The Identifier is recharged by placing it in the supplied charging dock. A complete charge takes around four hours.

Yes – the Identifier is completely waterproof and has an IPx7 rating. This means it has been tested for immersion at a depth of 1m for 30 minutes.

The Identifier needs to be programmed with your vessel information before it can be used. You can program it by connecting it to a PC or laptop USB port using the optional configuration dock. A Windows based application called ‘quickAIS’ is supplied with the Identifier and includes all configuration options and settings.

With the hundreds of different vessel types and configurations on the water, it’s hard to give exact examples of how an Identifier should be installed, but if you consider some basic points, then you should be able to ensure a good standard of performance from the installed (and correctly configured and charged) unit.

1 – Is the unit accessible? Unit must be easy to access, with the “ Window” in the Bracket easy to view.
2 – Is the unit secure? Make sure the unit is firmly attached to the vessel using the fixing kit and bracket provided.
3 – Is it clear from any obstructions? Make sure that the unit is clear of obstructions over and around the Identifier to ensure good GPS reception and good VHF signal propagation.
4 – Is it installed at a suitable height? The Identifier bracket should be mounted to a non-metallic, vertical pole with the status indicator clearly visible. It should only be mounted vertically and ideally should be at least 2m above sea-level.. Installing higher will ensure better range, but remember to balance this with the need to be able to gain easy access to the unit.

Yes – an optional power accessory is available which allows the Identifier to be permanently powered from a 12V or 24V on board supply. Please contact us for more information about this accessory.

The Identifier can be connected to a PC or Laptop for configuration with vessel information, however the Identifier can’t be interfaced with navigation software as it doesn’t receive AIS messages from other ships.

No – the Identifier doesn’t receive AIS messages from other ships, so it does not have a connection for a chart plotter.

Because VHF radios and AIS devices operate within the same frequency range and therefore require the same type of VHF antenna it is possible to share a single VHF antenna on both devices by using an AIS antenna splitter like the S100
The S100 AIS antenna splitter is designed to work primarily with AIS class B transceivers, although it will operate equally well with AIS receivers.

No, Class A transceivers are required (by regulation) to be connected to their own VHF antenna.

If you are happy that your S100 is correctly connected to your Class B and is installed and working correctly, but you are not receiving any targets, this may not necessarily indicate a fault. There could simply be a lack of active/visible AIS targets within range, or there may be an issue caused by your choice or location of antenna. Check the LED indicators on the S100 to see if they are illuminated (Power LED should be on, TX VHF should light when VHF communications are active and the TX AIS should illuminate at least once every 3 minutes if connected to a correctly configured Class B device).

Please note the following guidelines when selecting a location for your S100:

• The S100 must be fitted in a location where it is at least 0.5m from a compass or any magnetic device.
• There should be adequate space around the S100 for routing of cables.
• The ambient temperature around the S100 should be maintained between -25°C and +55°C.
• The S100 should not be located in a flammable or hazardous atmosphere such as in an engine room or near to fuel tanks.
• The S100 is not waterproof and must not be submerged or exposed to spray.
• It is acceptable to mount the S100 either vertically or horizontally.
• It is recommended that the S100 is installed in a ‘below decks’ environment.
• The S100 should be mounted in a location where the indicators are readily visible as these provide important information on the status of the S100.

An AIS SART (Search And Rescue Transmitter) is a homing beacon designed for use in an emergency. When activated an AIS SART transmits its GPS position using AIS in a special SART message. This message is recognised by the AIS display systems on other vessels (and potentially on shore) as an emergency message and generates an alarm. An AIS SART can be used to locate a life raft or lifeboat in an emergency situation.

Once activated an AIS SART will determine its position using the built in GPS receiver. The GPS position is then combined into a special AIS message which is transmitted to all other AIS equipment in range (typically 5 to 10 nautical miles).

The SART transmits its position 8 times every minute for at least 96 hours. An AIS SART contains a long life lithium battery with a shelf life of 5 years. The battery must be replaced once the SART has been activated or the shelf life of the battery has expired.

The SARTs built in test will let you know if there is a problem with the device.
To test, remove the AIS SART from the bracket or bag and move to an outdoor location with a clear view of the sky. Press and hold the ‘Test’ button for three seconds until the indicator starts flashing. The test is now active and the AIS SART will attempt to obtain a GPS position fix for five minutes. The test result is indicated by the LED, please check the label on the front of the SART which explains the LED flashes.

The AIS SART will operate for at least 96 hours once activated. After activation the battery must be replaced (please contact your dealer to arrange this). The battery has a shelf life of 5 years and must be replaced after the expiry date marked on the SART to ensure it will operate correctly in an emergency situation.

The AIS SART should only be used in an emergency situation where there is imminent and serious danger. The AIS SART is easily activated by breaking off the protective activation cover, then pressing and holding the activation button.
Once activated the SART should be placed as high as possible in the liferaft or lifeboat using the attached pole or lanyard.

Yes, the AIS SART is completely waterproof and rated for immersion up to 10 metres for up to 5 minutes.

No – an AIS SART is supplied configured with a unique SART MMSI number. AIS SART MMSI number start with 970 and follow a standard international format.

Each AIS SART is factory programmed with a unique identifier (MMSI) and does not require allocation of an MMSI.

If you do not currently have an MMSI for your vessel you may apply for one on the Australian Government - Australian Maritime Safety Authority webpage

Obtaining an MMSI is free.