DrVarnik on YouTube has posted a tutorial video on how to receive, decode and plot AIS information. The Automatic Identification System (AIS) is a system used for automatic tracking of large ships and passenger boats. It is a similar idea to tracking aircraft with ADS-B. His method uses a RTL-SDR for receiving the AIS signals with SDRSharp, decoding received signals with AISMon and plotting the decoded information with OpenCPN. He uses VB-Cable for looping the audio from SDRSharp to AISMon, but if you have a ‘Stereo Mix’ or equivalent feature with your soundcard, that will be unneeded. Best results will be achieved using a narrow-band vertically polarized antenna tuned for 161.975 MHz and 162.025 MHz (marine VHF). A directional antenna would also likely be a benefit. You can find some designs to try lower down the page. For safety, please only use this guide on land! Wouldn’t want you getting lost at sea.
Here are the homepages of the software used:
- AISMon – You may need to first join the group with a Yahoo account to gain access to the file section.
- VB-Cable (for looping audio from SDRSharp to AISMON)
Below is a screenshot of OpenCPN in action:
Here are some antennas designed for AIS reception:
- Collinear AIS Antenna
- 162MHz Yagi for AIS
- SlimJim using 300 Ohm twin lead cable
- or any antenna tuned to ~162MHz
For a tutorial with other software, check out the Cheap AIS Ship Tracking page at rtl-sdr.com