AIS Receiver Shopping Guide

What’s needed

What is necessary to build an cheap 2 channel AIS receiver with your Android phone, tablet, TV-Box.

In this post I will show you buying links to components like USB Cable, RTL-SDR Dongle, Antenna.

Estimate total costs from 15€ to 40€ with good hardware components from Aliexpress. Could be the half if you already have some components.

  1. Android hardware
  2. USB OTG cable
  3. RTL-SDR Dongle
  4. Antenna
  5. Android Software

1. Android hardware

  • Android Phone, Tablet, TV-Box with USB OTG functionality (almost all devices have that).
    App to check OTG function
  • Minimum Android version 4.1
  • I recommend minimum 1 GB RAM

INFO: Some tablet / phone manufacturer have a very strict battery saving policy which even breaks Android specifications. For example the just kill a App running not in foreground after x minutes. My apps are running as foreground services (status bar notification symbol) . If you encounter such problems have a look at https://dontkillmyapp.com/ which provides several options to avoid killing a app for different manufacturer.
On my Android 11 Samsung Tab S7 i had to put both apps AIS Share and RTL AIS Driver on the exclude battery optimization list. see https://dontkillmyapp.com/samsung#android-11


2. USB OTG cable

Note to all links: As an Amazon Associate and Aliexpress Affiliate, I will get a small commission from qualifying purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.

Connectors

Depending on your device you need an USB Micro OTG OR USB C OTG cable.
Note: A USB 2.0 rate cable is sufficient enough

2.1 USB-C/Micro OTG

  • High quality cables (stable connection)
  • Inexpensive
  • No external power supply
Amazon Deutschland

USB-C

USB-Micro

Aliexpress

Budget Store – Worldwide Shipping (up to 3 weeks)

Please not buy the cheapest cable you can find. I had some problems with very cheap cables where the connection between the dongle and the device was very unstable.

2.2 USB-C/Micro OTG with external power supply

  • External power supply for dongle
  • Most USB-Micro Y cables are of low quality

General note about – external power supply.
Normally the external power supply only powers the connected USB device – not the phone / tablet itself.
On some older devices OTG function for the USB device AND charging was possible.
Samsung Galaxy S3/S4/NOTE2/NOTE3, Nexus 7/8/10.
For current models this is normally not possible. Have a look at this blog
Alternatives would be to charge your phone / tablet by inductive charging or some tablet still have a sperat power DC jack

Amazon Deutschland

USB-C Hub

USB-Micro Y – cable

Aliexpress

Budget Store – Worldwide Shipping (up to 3 weeks)

USB-C Hub

UGREENE USB C HUB

USB-Micro Y – cable

USB Micro Y

Please not buy the cheapest cable you can find. I had some problems with very cheap cables where the connection between the dongle and the device was very unstable


3. RTL-SDR Dongle

Note to all links: As an Amazon Associate and Aliexpress Affiliate, I will get a small commission from qualifying purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.

Search for RTL2832U / 820T / 820T2 or RTL-SDR USB dongle.
I recommend high quality dongles which are more expensive but PPM is fix and stable around 0 or 1 . (0,5 PPM TCXO)
Please note: The antenna (especial the very short ones) delivered with some dongles is more or less only for testing. Don’t expect a good reception

3.1 High quality 0,5 ppm

  • PPM is 0 or 1
  • Price is higher
RTL-SDR.COM

Original RTL-SDR BLOG V3 Dongle

RTL-SDR V3 ORIGINAL

RTL SDR

Amazon Deutschland

RTL SDR 0,5 PPM

BUNDLE 0.5 PPM

BUNDLE 0.5 PPM

Aliexpress

Budget Store – Worldwide Shipping (up to 3 weeks)

RTL-SDR 0,5 PPM

RTL SDR

BUNDLE 0,5 PPM

Bundle with Antenna

3.1 Cheap – PPM variable

  • very cheap on Aliexpress
  • PPM is individual for every dongle
  • PPM change after dongle gets warm ( temperature drift)

Please read this tutorial https://www.ebctech.eu/find-your-ppm/

Amazon Deutschland

RTL SDR

Aliexpress

Budget Store – Worldwide Shipping (up to 3 weeks)

RTL-SDR

RTL SDR

RTL SDR

RTL SDR


4. ANTENNA

AIS signals are transmitted at 161,975 MHz and 162,025 MHz. To receive the signals over a distance you need to have a proper antenna. A popular search keyword is VHF or Marine VHF antenna.
Depending on your dongle you have different connectors. The high quality dongles usually have a SMA female antenna port. The cheap dongles have usually a MCX female port.

4.1 BUNDLE ANTENNA

In some RTL-SDR Bundles kit there is a telescope antenna included. This is okay for start.
Such telescopic aerial antenna have best reception at a extend length of 46 cm (1/4 wave length) or 92 cm ( 1/2 wave length).
In some RTL-SDR Bundles there is just a few cm antenna included. With this antenna you have to be very very closes to ships. You would not be happy with that kind of antenna.

4.2 DIY ANTENNA

see this excellent blog posts for more info
http://www.radioforeveryone.com/p/ais-antennas.html
https://arundaleais.github.io/docs/ais/aerial.html

4.3 COMMERCIAL ANTENNA

Note to all links: As an Amazon Associate and Aliexpress Affiliate, I will get a small commission from qualifying purchases. The decision is yours, and whether or not you decide to buy something is completely up to you.

Aliexpress

Budget Store – Worldwide Shipping (up to 3 weeks)

Ground Plate Antenna

GP telescopic antenna

AIS Marine

RTL SDR

4.3.1 Adapter for Antenna

Your dongle has an SMA female or MCX female antenna port. For connecting a commercial antenna you might need adapter.

Amazon Deutschland

SMA-KIT

MCX

MCX-KIT

Aliexpress

Budget Store – Worldwide Shipping (up to 3 weeks)

RF Connector and Adapter Store

Aliexpress Store

MCX TO SMA

MCX TO SMA


5. SOFTWARE

Install the free driver software to test if your hardware setup is working.
see this tutorial https://www.ebctech.eu/installation-rtl-ais-driver/

After that install the AIS Share software. see this tutorial https://www.ebctech.eu/installation-ais-share/


Questions ?

Have a look at https://www.ebctech.eu/faq-ais-share-rtl-ais-driver/

2 comments

  1. Hello my friend I recently posted a review after buying the full version of the app.

    Is there anyway you could add a network source as an input (local device/port)
    I have gave up on the sdr dongle and upgraded to a receiver and it won’t run as it requires prolific serial drivers.

    If there was a network input option on the app it would mean a lot more people would use the app too. And you could also think about adding more output sources to upload to as well.

    If you could think about this and let me know by email I would be willing to donate generously as an incentive to expand the app with these extra features

    I am currently having to run ais dispatcher on my pc 24/7 because I can’t use my receiver through AIS_Share. I would love to be able to run this through your app.

    1. Will definitely think about it. First i have to finish my Dump1090 Android project. Step by Step 🙂 Thank You

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