Raymarine AIS500, unique Class B transponder
Given the new C Series Widescreens and ST70+ displays, and my mid-week absence (moms happen!), let’s just call this Raymarine New Stuff Week. Behold the AIS500, which just may be the easiest-to-integrate-into-your-system Class B transponder yet. That’s because, like Ray’s AIS250 receiver, it has an NMEA 0183 multiplexer and a VHF antenna splitter built right in. Note that splitting 25w VHF and 2w AIS transceivers is more complex than just sharing a VHF with a receiver, and to date only the Digital Yacht SPL250 claims the ability (and seems to work well in my testing). And that’s not all…
The AIS500 also has a SeaTalkNG/NMEA 2000 port. I notice that while the Raymarine brochure says the 0183 output is compatible with “other manufacturers capable of displaying AIS targets,” it only says that the STng output is compatible with Ray E and G Series. I’d like to think that they’re being conservative because many manufacturers don’t yet support the N2K AIS messages (which may not even be complete yet). The AIS500 also has a Silent Mode and supports “Buddy Tracking”, which surprised me a bit as I thought that happened in the target plotting display (which may be what they mean).
Incidentally, I’ve had an AIS250 in the lab for quite a while and, while I still think it’s expensive for a one-channel-at-a-time receiver, the multiplexer and antenna splitter seem to work well. Raymarine has also told me that they multiplex the receiver in a special way that reduces missed AIS messages, but I haven’t really seen that in action. But once winter breaks (and I get back to Maine), there’s going to be some serious Class B testing (just got word today that the Penobscot Bay Pilots have upgraded their portable systems for complete Class B message reception, and are willing to participate).