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Welcome to next generation navigation from Digital Yacht

Please remember our main website is at www.digitalyachtamerica.com so please visit there  for further product information.

This site is a daily news feed – packed with useful hints and tips on marine electronics in general, useful installation guides, white papers and links to other sites too. Feel free to subscribe by joining our list. Follow us also on Twitter and Facebook.

Next steps to a truly connected boat

Here’s a bit of weekend thinking for you…

Reliable high speed and low cost internet access will transform maritime navigation with the ability to download charts and updates, share data with other users and supplement charting information with weather overlays.  However, internet access from the high seas or even just a few miles offshore can be prohibitively expensive with satellite communication systems hardware costing $1000’s and hefty data charges too – but two new satellite ventures involving some heavy weight players may have huge implications for maritime users

Google and SpaceX are joining forces in the space race against Facebook and Richard Branson to create a new satellite internet access system.

SpaceX has raised $1 billion from Google and Fidelity in a deal that values the spaceship manufacturer at about $10 billion, The Associated Press reported Tuesday night. This investment would help Google’s plan to bring reliable Internet access to remote areas around the world via satellites but it also helps maritime users.

space x

Just last week, Musk revealed SpaceX’s newest venture to build a network of satellites that could accelerate Internet connectivity around the world.

“Our focus is on creating a global communications system that would be larger than anything that has been talked about to date,” Musk told Bloomberg BusinessweekThe project can be expected in “sooner than five years,” with a price tag of $10 billion, according to Musk.

Google’s effort to “organize the world’s information” cannot succeed if two-thirds of the world does not have reliable access to this information. So in recent years, Google has experimented with several methods and devices to bring the Internet to unconnected, rural areas. In 2013, it launched Project Loon to send high-altitude helium balloons beaming down Wi-Fi. Last year, it acquired dronemaker Titan Aerospace for $60 million and began testing solar-powered drones to spread internet access.

“Space-based applications, like imaging satellites, can help people more easily access important information, so we’re excited to support SpaceX’s growth as it develops new launch technologies,” Google said in a statement.

Satellite industry entrepreneur Greg Wyler, who worked for Google’s space project briefly last year, has also secured funding for OneWeb, a very similar Internet-via-satellites initiative. OneWeb’s most prominent backer is Virgin’s Richard Branson.

There’s a great article from Gizmodo here on the technologies.  Whatever happens, it looks like we really are getting closer to a truly connected boat.


USCG Class A AIS Mandate Now Approved

If you own or operate a commercial vessel in US waters (ports, rivers, lakes, and seas) you are likely to be affected by this new rule. The United States Coast Guard is publishing a new rule which will require most commercial vessels operating in US waters to fit and operate a USCG certified AIS transceiver. On 23rd December 2014, President Obama signed the final rule documentation relevant to the new USCG AIS Rule. We expect it to be formally published in the coming weeks whereupon those vessels affected shall have a limited window of 7 months to install an AIS Class A transceiver to be operating legally.  Currently only vessels over 300GRT on an international voyage are required to have an AIS Class A transponder.  It is likely this ruling will impact on 40,000 vessels.

AIS Basics

An AIS transponder send your boat’s identity, position, course and speed to other vessels equipped with an AIS unit. This data can then be interfaced to a chart plotter display to present an overlay of targets with their heading information.   It greatly aids navigation and helps with collision avoidance.  Signals are transmitted over two dedicated VHF frequencies so typical range from a Class A unit is 20-30NM depending upon antenna height.  All commercial ships over 300GRT are mandated to carry a Class A AIS transponder and the new USCG ruling will also mean other commercial vessels in the US will require a Class A unit.  Class A units have a display to show an overlay of targets and also connect to the vessels electronic chart plotter.  Voyage data can be entered into the Class A display.

Other users including yachtsmen can opt for the cheaper Class B type units like the Digital Yacht AIT1500/AIT2000/AIT3000.  Class B units are fully integrated into the AIS system but have a lower 2W transmit power and only send their data every 30 seconds.  They also require a chart plotter to display target data

What equipment is required?

A USCG approved Class A transponder like Digital Deep Sea’s CLA1000 meets the requirement of the mandate.  Its built tough, is extremely reliable, fully approved and competitively priced as well as supported through a technical dealer network.

The CLA1000 requires two antennas – a GPS antenna (included) and connection to a dedicated VHF antenna.  It may be your vessel already has a spare VHF antenna but if not a good quality (3dBi) VHF antenna should be fitted and ideally a version which is tuned to AIS frequencies (162MHz) which are slightly higher than the normal 156MHz range used for voice traffic.  Digital Deep Sea can help specify the right antenna for your vessel and even have a bundle package available

CLA1000 Bundle HR

The picture above also shows a couple of useful accessories like our HSC100 fast compass sensor which can be connected to the CLA1000 to provide Rate-of-Turn and vessel heading data for the AIS transmissions.  Also show is our Pilot Plug cable allowing connection of a PC or MAC to the CLA1000

What’s in the box?

This video is a little old, but we’ve been in the AIS business for a while which helps us support you better.  Here’s a video showing what’s included with the CLA1000

I know I have to get one but are there any advantages of installing an AIS?

Nobody likes a mandate with deadlines for installation but AIS genuinely improves navigation, safety and will make vessels more efficient for the future.  Unlike radar, AIS positively identifies a target with MMSI, callsign and name allowing communications to be quickly established.  The CLA1000 can also decode ATON (AIS aids to navigation) – these synthetic markers show on an AIS display but may not physically exist allowing dynamic management of the waterways.  AIS Personal SARTs are also available for MOB applications.  Additionally the AIS network can transmit information such as weather to mariners in real time.

iPad, MAC and PC Navigation

The CLA1000 is fitted with a pilot plug connector on the front of the display.  This allows GPS and AIS data to be connected to other devices either wirelessly (to an iPad or tablet using our WLN10HS NMEA to WiFi Server or PilotLink) or via a cable to a PC or MAC.  Digital Yacht has a great range of apps like NavLink US – a full featured charting and navigation program with detailed NOAA charts and a great AIS overlay including vessel scaling

Screen Shot 2014-10-23 at 08.43.55



How do I get more information?

You can get further information on the CLA1000 from HERE

List price on the CLA1000 is $2799 but there’s amazing deals and offers for all commercial operators either through your local dealer or direct from us.  Contact us direct on 978 277 1234 to learn more and get instant savings today.

New AIS Man Over Board Device from Ocean Signal

At this year’s London Boat Show we were interested to see a brand new AIS Man Over board device from UK manufacturer Ocean Signal. The MOB1 is Ocean Signal’s first AIS MOB device, but its specifications, small size and unique integrated DSC function (triggers a DSC Alarm on the boat’s VHF) put it firmly ahead of the McMurdo and Kannad devices.

Ocean Signal MOB1

AIS MOB devices are designed, either to be fitted to self inflating life jackets for automatic operation or carried and manually operated by each member of the crew, should they fall over board. On the assumption that the best vessel to save the MOB is the vessel that he/she fell from, AIS MOB devices transmit a special AIS message that can be picked up by all AIS equipped vessels within 4-5 miles of the MOB.

With a suitable AIS enabled chart plotting device, the position of the MOB is clearly and accurately plotted on the electronic chart, making it very easy to locate and steer back to the “poor unfortunate”. As the MOBs position is constantly being transmitted and received in real time, the fear and uncertainty of trying to predict where the MOB has now drifted to, is completely removed even in rough seas with strong tides.

All Digital Yacht AIS receivers and transponders are compatible with AIS MOB devices, correctly receiving and passing on the special AIS MOB messages to other displays and devices on the boat. For any vessel that does not have an AIS MOB compatible chart plotter or who simply want the security of having an independent AIS MOB alarm system, Digital Yacht’s AIS Life Guard product is ideal.

AIS LifeGuard

AIS LifeGuard

Connected to the NMEA0183 output or the boat’s AIS receiver or transponder, Life Guard will immediately sound its internal 97dB alarm when it detects an AIS MOB signal and also drive an external alarm, relay or klaxon. What is more, LifeGuard can also detect the AIS MOB test message, sounding a short internal beep, ideal for testing the AIS MOB devices before leaving port.


For more information on the Ocean Signal MOB1 device please click here or to find out more about our AIS Life Guard product please click here.


SmarterTrack 2015 Now Shipping

Lenovo Tablet with SmarterTrack

A new version of our popular Windows Navigation Software SmarterTrack 2015 has now been released.

With added support for the powerful TheyR weather service, full compatibility with the latest Windows 8 Tablets (using the tablets internal GPS) and other smaller updates and improvements, SmarterTrack 2015 is the perfect navigation software for anyone with an existing Navionics based chart plotter.

Users can copy their existing chart cartridges to the PC’s hard drive (free of charge) and avoid having to buy a duplicate set of charts or have the cartridge permanently plugged in to the PC, which is so often the case with other PC navigation software. Routes and Waypoints created on SmarterTrack can be copied to the chart cartridge and then loaded in to the dedicated chart plotter.

SmarterTrack 2015 costs £250+VAT and existing users can update for £25+VAT. A demo version of SmarterTrack 2015 is available to download here.

Testing Wireless NMEA Data

iAIS TCP-IP Screen


With more and more wireless NMEA systems being installed on-board boats, it is very useful for dealers, installers and enthusiastic end users to have simple tools to “view” this wireless NMEA data.

Traditionally, wired NMEA0183 data was viewed using an NMEA to USB cable connected to a PC and then a program such as Hyperterminal (included with Windows up to WinXP) would be used to display the data. In fact Digital Yacht released a free, dedicated NMEA Display program to use on Windows Vista/7/8 and this proved to be a popular tool for testing wired NMEA0183 systems.

With wireless NMEA systems it is much easier to test using a smart phone or tablet and we would recommend the following free apps;

For Apple iOS Devices – our own free iAIS app (see image above) has a very simple raw data view window that can be used to display the wireless NMEA data in TCP or UDP mode. Alternatively iNMEA Logger is another free app, written by the company that developed the popular iRegatta App that can log 30 seconds of received data and create a text file of the results, useful if you do not understand NMEA0183 and want to send it to someone who does.

For Android Devices – there are no specific wireless NMEA Apps, but there are a lot of terminal programs that display TCP and UDP data and after trawling through a fair number of apps, we came across TCP/UDP Terminal App which we think is the best Android App found so far.

Once you have installed your app for displaying wireless NMEA data, then you need to know what you are looking at. To buy the NMEA0183 Specification costs quite a lot of money but there is quite a lot of data on-line, you just need to hunt it out.

Unfortunately a lot of the information on-line is quite old and some of the newer sentences are not fully explained. The NMEA do in fact publish a complete list of all Sentence Identifiers with a short description of what they are (not the complete sentence description) and this list also includes the proprietary Manufacturer’s ID – these sentences start $Pxxx, where xxx = the manufacturer identifier.

It should be noted that most wireless NMEA data is “human readable” (ASCII Text) but the AIS sentences VDM and VDO have what is called a “binary encapsulated” section (bit like a zip file) to reduce the sentence length – see example below.


This means that you will not be able to make sense of the AIS target information in the VDM and VDO messages, but our free iAIS app does display this information on the main plotter screen, so worth having a copy of this app.

Surface Pro 3 Navigation & Charting

While Microsoft have had a hard time with their Surface tablet product, the latest generation really is a great product and may make a brilliant solution for on board navigation.  With an amazing 2160 x 1440 pixel 12″ screen it’s hands down better than pretty much any chart plotter and its portability means you can use at the chart table, in the cockpit or for planning at home.  It’s also priced like a 5″ plotter


The keyboard is detachable so you can use as a tablet (with touch screen, mouse or stylus) or in a more familiar notebook format which is good at a desk or chart table.  We also wrote about the Lenovo MiiX tablet (a smaller 8″ unit) HERE a few months back but Surface offers a bigger screen and a more powerful Intel based processor for superior performance.

But…  Unlike many tablets, it doesn’t have a built in GPS so until now was not a contender for on board navigation.  However, our WLN series nmea-wireless servers can stream your boat’s NMEA instrument, GPS and AIS data direct to any mobile device including iPads, Android tablets, PCs, MACs and now the Surface Pro.  This is a much better solution even if your tablet has an internal GPS as your on board system will generally be more accurate and have other data like AIS and instruments available.  It alos means the tablet will work below decks and save on tablet battery consumption.

You can of course use our SmarterTrack PC navigation program on a Surface Pro and this works well.  Swedish developer SeaPilot have just launched a FREE app on the Windows store and there’s a large selection of professional charts available to download for a modest cost turning the Surface Pro 3 with a WLN10 into a pretty powerful navigation solution.  Here’s a quick 2 minute video with Jens Johansson from SeaPilot when I caught up with him at Boot 2015

Bonjour France! Digital Yacht Open Facility

Digital Yacht have opened a new facility to support sales and marketing to dealers and boat builders in the important French market.

Nicolas Guerin will head up the new operation looking after marketing for the Digital Yacht range of AIS, wireless navigation and wireless internet products as well as their award winning range of GPS sensors.

nicolas guerin

“With the introduction of over 10 new innovative products in the past few months, it’s important we have great local language, marketing and technical support for France” commented Nick Heyes, CEO Digital Yacht.   “We see France as becoming one of our largest markets.”  Digital Yacht exported to over 100 countries last year.

You can download our latest € Product Guide from HERE

Reach Nicolas by email at nicolas.guerin@digitalyacht.fr or call + 33 1 70 70 92 50. Tweet @digitalfrance or @digitalyacht

A new website http://www.digitalyacht.fr will be online soon


Digital Yacht, le fabricant de produits électroniques marins basé au Royaume-Uni et au Etats-Unis a maintenant ouvert un nouvel établissement à Paris afin de soutenir les ventes et le marketing pour les marchands et constructeurs de bateau dans l’important marché français.

Nicolas Guerin dirigera les nouvelles operations de marketing pour la gamme de Digital Yacht de l’AIS, de la navigation sans fil et des produits internet sans fil ainsi que la primé gamme de GPS capteur;

“Avec l’introduction de plus de 10 produits innovants au cours des derniers mois, il est important que nous avons des personnes locales s’occupant du marketing et du support technique pour la France” commenta Nick Heyes, PDG de Digital Yacht. “Nous voyons la France comme devenir l’un de nos plus gros marchés.”  Digital Yacht a exporté vers plus de 100 pays l’année dernière.

Contactez Nicolas par email : nicolas.guerin@digitalyacht.fr ou par téléphone + 33 1 70 70 92 50