Thursday, May 15, 2008

AIS In the Sky?

For those of you who haven't heard about AIS (Automatic Identification System), it is a rapidly emerging shipboard broadcast system used by larger boats (operating in the VHF maritime band) that reports a vessel's position, course, speed and other important information to all nearby receivers.

If you have an AIS receiver this information can be displayed on your chart plotter, enabling you to easily identify nearby vessels and determine if there is a crossing situation which you need to deal with. One added benefit is that part of the data being transmitted is the name of each vessel and their MMSI DSC calling number - enabling you to easily call a particular vessel and negotiate passing arrangements. Really cool stuff that based on my experience is a necessity when transiting congested waters with a slow vessel in reduced visibility or at night.

But wait - it gets even better! The US Coast Guard and the Norwegian government are planing to build and launch several AIS satellites, enabling AIS vessel transmissions to be globally received and monitored - facilitating vessel traffic control in regions well beyond the current VTS limits...

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