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Re: AIS Unit for Raymarine Chartplotter System
Interfacing the ICOM MA-500TR Class B AIS transponder to other navigation equipment.
By Pedro M.J. WYNS, BSc&T.
The Icom MA-500TR is a very promising AIS device when reading the promotional leaflets. Installing and integrating it with other brands of equipment can be a serious challenge, regarding the amounts of forum posts and calls for help on this issue.
Not finding any help while installing mine, I decided to write a small manual for all those unhappy people out there.
Problem 1: GPS
If you were thinking about integrating the MA-500TR with your existing GPS using NMEA0183 on any of the 3 ports, forget it, it won’t work. The MA-500TR looks for a very specific GPS sentence, the GBS line, which is a line containing data about the reliability of the received satellite signal. There are almost no commercial GPS units that deliver this sentence apart from the optional Icom GPS. If the MA-500TR does not see this particular line, he will display a “GPS not found” alert. So the bad news, you MUST buy the Icom MXG-5000 GPS antenna/receiver. I never understood why they were not sold as a package.
Problem 2: AIS data
The manual is very unclear how to attach your existing plotter. Any plotter will do, Raymarine, Garmin,… BUT… It will only work when connected to NMEA port 2. The manual is telling this port is “only for Icom Marinecommander system”, so everybody takes by default Port 1 and sets the data rate to 38400 bps, and then desperately waits for icons to appear on the map. It won’t work. You MUST use port 2.
Having bought an extra GPS it might as well serve as a backup for your existing GPS. Using the port 2 NMEA0183 output this is possible, if you set the output option to “AIS+GPS” and further adjust your plotter to look for more GPS data sources in its own menu.
If you have a DSC VHF radio it has a GPS input for automatic emergency position reports. It can be connected to port 1 and if compatible it can even do DSC calls piloted from the MA-500TR.
I hope this info was useful to you. If it helped, please drop me a little email, this keeps me motivated posting modification sheets like this one.
Pedro M.J.WYNS – ON7WP AA9HX C5WP - 20151028