Navigating Your Boat Better With AIS

AIS stands for automated identity system and it represents a major step forward when it comes to marine navigation. An AIS transmitter unit continuously conveys your speed, course, and identity as you sail. Similarly, an AIS receiver allows you to track another craft’s speed and course when it’s transmitting in the VHF range. In the U.S., commercial ships over 65 feet and tugboats over 26 feet and 600 HP are required to have this automated identity system. Here’s what you should know about the importance of AIS for traveling by boat.

Understanding the Benefits of AIS

As a recreational boat user, the last thing you want is to collide with another vessel, especially very large types that cannot maneuver and stop as easily. Having an AIS offers these advantages to you:

  • It lets you know where other ships are when visibility is very low.
  • It alerts other ships to your presence, especially if your boat is stalled.
  • It enables you to detect other watercraft around bends and corners. 

Collisions with other vessels can lead to loss of life as well as property damage. 

Exploring AIS Classes

There are two classes of AIS. Class A is for commercial shipping. This type is usually a part of a ship’s navigation system and transmits using two channels. Class B is designated for smaller boats and can be used for transmission and receiving, or receiving only. Although both classes nearly work the same, Class B transmitters report less frequently than Class A. Class B AIS doesn’t identify a vessel’s number or call sign.

Equipping Your Vessel

It is recommended that you have a dedicated AIS antenna, an AIS engine, a GPS signal, power, and a display. Some boaters also include a compass to convey their rate of turn, so others can see where they end up after a maneuver. The AIS engine processes the signal before it reaches the display. Many AIS engines are available for purchase, and most PC or Mac-based navigation systems can serve as displays. You can expect to pay less than $1,000 for an AIS system.