AIS-Equipped Personal Locator Beacons

The uses for AIS—Automatic Identification System—continue to evolve far beyond the original intention of collision avoidance for large ships. The first AIS-equipped Personal Locator Beacons have just gone on sale.
Author:
Publish date:
Updated on
AIS%20illustration

The uses for AIS—Automatic Identification System—continue to evolve far beyond the original intention of collision avoidance for large ships. The first AIS-equipped Personal Locator Beacons have just gone on sale, and it’s only a matter of time before the technology replaces the radar transponder (racon) beacons used on many vital navigation marks. 

In fact, in some instances AIS could do away altogether with navigation aids as we know them. Meet the Virtual AIS Beacon, developed to “place” marks where no traditional buoys can exist. 

On the rugged coast of New Zealand’s South Island, a barely submerged rock at the mouth of the aptly named Doubtful Sound is an ever-present danger to the many cruise ships that call in there. Within weeks of any buoy being placed there, however, Southern Ocean swells would pluck it away.

The answer was to place an AIS beacon in a solar-powered lighthouse 3½ miles away, transmitting the coordinates of the invisible rock. It shows up on a plotter screen as a marked hazard, just like a fixed nav aid. AIS display manufacturer Vesper Marine, which built the beacon, foresees many other uses for the technology, including marking shifting sandbars or channels, underwater pipelines, even temporary boundaries around race courses, wrecks and so on. Its low-powered 2W transmissions have a range of up to 18 miles. The beacon itself is a small plastic “black box,” needing only an antenna/GPS connection and a power supply.

Don’t expect your familiar channel markers to disappear anytime soon, though. The technology provides a cost-effective and non-intrusive way of marking dangers or areas where it’s not feasible to place or maintain fixed nav aids, and to supplement nav aids in hazardous areas—not supplant them.

Illustration by Colin Hayes

Related

20190614_131026

Kiwi Spirit Takes Line Honors in Bermuda

Mark Riley’s Farr 63 Kiwi Spirit secured line honors yesterday in the Marion to Bermuda race, finishing off St. David’s Lighthouse at 0227 local time. Francis Seldorff’s Kinship, a Baltic 52, was second in the 40-boat fleet, crossing the line at around 0500. With 18-year-old ...read more

TOTW_PromoSite

SAIL's Tip of the Week

Presented by Vetus-Maxwell. Got a tip? Send it to sailmail@sailmagazine.com No cracked skulls please Modern boats with aft bathing ladders offer a big advantage when it comes to rescuing crew who have fallen overboard. Not all casualties are basket cases unable to help ...read more

01-Lead-show

France’s Annual Multihull Show

If a boat show could be described as intimate, the annual Salon International du Multicoque in La Grande Motte, on France’s Mediterranean coast, is it. Held in the latter part of April, the multihulls-only in-water show is a boon for builders, because the people who attend come ...read more

Furlex-Electric

Gear: Seldén’s Furlex Electric

Furl Power Seldén’s Furlex Electric offers an easy path into the world of sweat-free headsail furling. The compact unit can be retrofitted to an existing manual Furlex unit or installed as a replacement for whatever you’ve got now. Its DC-DC converter accepts your boat’s 12V or ...read more

11_DSC8423Tom-Zydler

Cruising: Nova Scotia

There’s a unique cruising ground that combines access to urban locations with easy escapes to wilderness and nature. Its native people may be the friendliest on the east coast of North America. Its coastline runs 250 nautical miles in a straight line, but that should be ...read more

01-LEAD-shutterstock_727849660

Boat Monitoring System

Boat Oversight In a world where you can track your friends’ locations in real time and stream yourself live on the internet, it should come as no surprise that you can also keep a close eye on your boat from the comfort of home. In fact, not only is there a plethora of options ...read more