It is an Android app / application that decodes AIS messages transmitted by ships via radio using a cheap USB DVB-T / RTL-SDR stick.

AIS messages are transmitted over VHF.
Channel A: 161.975 MHz
Channel B: 162.025 MHz.
The app decodes both channels simultaneously.

This application does not need an internet connection, it decodes the received messages in real time.
This is a true standalone full featured AIS receiver.

The received messages are translated into NMEA0183 strings which can then be forwarded via UDP or TCP streaming to third party applications, PC programs or other devices.
Such applications can, for example, display the received AIS data on a map together with information about the received objects.

Please note: The app needs additional (very cheap) hardware to receive the radio signals.

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.

Using AIS Share and OpenCPN on sailboat

How all started

I live by the river. Especially in the summertime, when I sit on my terrace and watch all those beautiful river cruise ships go by, I think it would be interesting to know a little bit more about them. At the time, I already knew about the possibility of tracking the position of aeroplanes live, but for ships? I soon found a couple of similar sites on the internet where you could follow the positions of ships – but my region wasn’t covered. So I did some more research and found the amazing blog http://www.rtl-sdr.com/. The blog is absolutely fantastic; it shows several different applications of what can be done with a so-called RTL-SDR dongle. So in August 2015 I created my first Android app for decoding AIS ship positions.