Sharing Ships’ Weather Data via AIS

Gregory Johnson, Ken Dykstra, Gaurav Dhungana, Brian Tetreault

Abstract: In the aftermath of the El Faro sinking, one of the NTSB recommendations was for NOAA to explore increasing the reception of weather data from ships in order to improve the weather forecast products that they distribute. Currently NOAA runs the Voluntary Observing Ship (VOS) program, where ships voluntarily submit weather observations to NOAA. However, this data is submitted infrequently, typically four times per day and is a manual process. One method being explored to automate and increase the frequency of data submittal is by using the Automatic identification System (AIS). Most ships (SOLAS-class vessel for example) have a Class A transponder due to mandatory carriage requirements. Many vessels that are not required, also have AIS transponders (either a Class A or B). All of these AIS transponders can be used to transmit AIS message 8 (broadcast binary message) simply by sending the transponder the appropriate NMEA sentence (BBM). The weather data can be embedded in an AIS message 8 and transmitted by the ship automatically. This transmission will be received by terrestrial receivers (when in range) or by satellite AIS receivers. The AIS weather data can then be converted into the appropriate format and forwarded to the NOAA weather database automatically. By leveraging this installed base of AIS transmitters, the volume of weather data being sent to NOAA could be greatly increased. The USACE and MARAD have been exploring the feasibility of this concept. An initial proof-of-concept was tested on the Cape Wrath in Baltimore in October 2018. After this successful demonstration, a prototype was installed on the T/S Kennedy during her training cruise Jan-Feb 2019. More recently, systems were installed on three commercial vessels operating in the Pacific Ocean. This report will discuss the concept, the demonstrations, and the results to date including the efficacy of the various ASM formats.
Published in: Proceedings of the 32nd International Technical Meeting of the Satellite Division of The Institute of Navigation (ION GNSS+ 2019)
September 16 - 20, 2019
Hyatt Regency Miami
Miami, Florida
Pages: 1598 - 1612
Cite this article: Johnson, Gregory, Dykstra, Ken, Dhungana, Gaurav, Tetreault, Brian, "Sharing Ships’ Weather Data via AIS," Proceedings of the 32nd International Technical Meeting of the Satellite Division of The Institute of Navigation (ION GNSS+ 2019), Miami, Florida, September 2019, pp. 1598-1612.
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