Test Nomad – stand-alone AIS transceiver by Digital Yacht

I introduced last may the Nomad, a portable AIS transceiver designed by Digital Yacht. I had to wait until the end of the summer to have the opportunity to test in real situation this device that had been entrusted to me by the manufacturer. I can already say that I was conquered.

I conducted the test in two phases. The first in my home port of St-Vaast-La-Hougue in my own boat, to the pontoon, and at low tide, the port doors closed - the context is important - for the commissioning of the reception only. The second at sea, in Roussillon, with setting the transmission service.

1. Reception in harbour

Set up the device took no more than 10 minutes, including unpacking. To receive no need for settings. We install antenna, we power the Nomad by connecting its USB cable to the computer, or a 12V/USB converter, and it works.

The Nomad powered by MacBook USB

I placed the small antenna upon my hood, the cable passing through the porthole above the chart table, approximately 3m00 above the waterline. On the pictures below you can see the surroundings obstructed by the masts of the boats, docks and high buildings, in brief, conditions a-priori not conducive to good reception. It was voluntary, I will not hide !

My first surprise was the speed and the quality of the GPS location acquisition, with the device on my chart table, knowing that its GPS antenna is built-in the housing (the visible small antenna being dedicated only to wireless transmission).

Screens of proAIS2 utility

NMEA data transmission was instantaneous : received position data and first AIS targets . Despite this unfavourable context, the receipt of a few boats has been excellent, at a distance no more than 5 NM.

Whether connected via USB or Wi-Fi, with MacENC on my MacBook the connection was a child's play and reception perfect :

Left USB connection, Right WiFi

Wi-Fi with my iPhone and Weather4D Routing & Navigation has been easier and faster :

2. Transmitting and receiving at sea

A few days later, here I am embarked on board "Prince d’Oc", Olivier Bouyssou's sailboat, I no longer present, departing from Port Leucate for a few days of getaway along the Costa Brava. The goal is to take advantage of the last days of good weather for equipment tests and the development of new developments of Weather4D 2.0.

I took this opportunity to set up the Nomad with the MMSI number and characteristics of the Dufour 405 of Olivier, in order to test the device transmission.

MMSI and characteristic settings with proAIS2

Once installed, the reception has been greatly improved, despite the small antenna mounted upon the bimini, managing to receive the transmitter Cape Bear over 15 NM.

In addition, it will not have to wait long before being traced by AIS websites, the first being Vessel Finder and the second Marine Traffic. Which proves, despite its size and its low position, the efficiency of the antenna transmission .

3. Conclusion

Both tests showed that the Nomad perfectly met a need for autonomy with a compact transceiver, easy to carry, and with high efficiency, despite a small antenna and a positioning necessarily low enough upon the water. Although it is not waterproof, no need to expose it outside. However the AIS antenna is perfectly watertight. My only complaint is that its suction cup is completely ineffective on most available and well located surfaces, and that a clip support (such as "Magic articulated arm " by Tarion used on board Prince d’Oc, see picture above) may prove unavoidable.

Thus, the Nomad would suit both boaters who rent or those small units owners, as conveyors and other yachting professionals. For the latter - and only for them - a utility to reset the MMSI number (Windows only) will allow them to move from one boat to another in accordance with the regulations of the National Frequencies Agency. So this is a great device for mobile security that I can recommend objectively.