What Is an AIS System?


Whether new to navigating waters or experienced but ready to outfit a boat with the best communication systems, it’s important to understand what an AIS antenna is and how it works. These systems are essential when trying to navigate busy waters.

About AIS Systems

Although not required unless a vessel is more than 300 tons, these systems provided an added layer of safety regardless of the size of the boat. Their importance is evident in the fact that more than 40,000 ships are fitted with the original Class A equipment and newer Class B options that were introduced in 2007.

In essence, an AIS antenna is supplemental equipment that enhances existing radar systems on a boat. They are designed to help captains avoid a collision via essential data, including course, position and speed, as well as enhance the crew’s ability to determine the best path to take. Each AIS transmission has its own identification number, which also makes it easier for the Coast Guard to locate a specific vessel.

How They Work

AIS systems work with the electronic navigation devices on a ship through a VHF radio transceiver. It also integrates with a GPS receiver. Once connected to the other navigation sensors, it transmits data and details including the vessel’s identification number and unique call sign designated by the VHF. Once the signals are sent out, platforms both offshore and on land with a VTS system or AIS transponders receive the signals. Ships on the water with transponders receive the information on a display system, which allows different vessels to see the position of other ships. AIS has proven a worthy tool, which may eventually become more common than radar beacons.

While there may be nothing quite like navigating through open waters, multiple systems, including an AIS antenna, should be in place to enhance safety and help make it easier to plot a course home.