Modern AIS receivers can handle the transfer of data without any special computer software. Thus, the most basic components of a typical AIS-receiving station are the AIS Receiver itself and a VHF Antenna along with their relevant cables. Of course, you may use other components such as a Computer or an AIS switch or special computer software. The only necessary prerequisites are constant power supply and a stable internet connection.
Any marine electronics shop near your area could provide you with an AIS receiver. You may buy one directly from there or you may order one from any online shop which sells marine electronics (you may also visit the MarineTraffic E-Shop). In many cases, especially if you are located in an area of maritime interest or if your area is not sufficiently covered by other MarineTraffic stations, we will be pleased to provide you with a top-notch AIS receiver for free.
Marine VHF antennas of any kind are suited for AIS-data reception. However, for base stations, an antenna of 5/8 type seems to perform better. You may check some sample antennas in our E-shop.
A typical 5/8 antenna is shown in the following picture.
If you are interested in further improving your coverage you may use a high-gain VHF antenna (e.g. a 3 x 5/8) or a specially designed antenna for AIS-reception, such as the “Shakespeare 6396-ais” or the “DPD Productions AIS antenna”.
You can also build your own handcrafted antenna which will result in you having even more options. Since, in most cases, the sea is not surrounding us, it would be a very good idea to construct a directional (Yagi) antenna pointing straight to the sea. An array of two Yagi AIS antennas is shown below.
You may also try a custom made “Collinear” AIS antenna.
Keep in mind, though, that no matter the decision you will make on the type of antenna you may use, you have to install it at the highest possible point of your building for an optimal reception!
Cables and Connectors
In order to connect the antenna to the receiver, you will need a cable and the relevant connectors. A fine choice regarding the cable would be the RG-213 type. In case the antenna is close to the receiver (less than 10 metres), you may also use a cheaper type of cable, such as the RG-58 type. In any case, the length of the antenna cable must be kept as short as possible to minimize signal attenuation and increase reception efficiency.
You will also need an ethernet-to-ethernet cable to connect your AIS receiver to your network port (e.g. your router or switch). In general, it is preferable to keep the receiver close to the antenna rather than close to your router. So, if these 3 units are not close, you are advised to use a longer ethernet cable rather than a longer antenna cable in terms of efficient reception – it is also much more cost-effective!