US Coast Guard to test AIS Aids to Navigation (ATON)

The United States Coast Guards anounced to start with an official test of Automatic Identification System (AIS) Aids to Navigation (ATON). In the near future the USCG will start transmitting AIS ATON signals for evaluation purposes at selected locations.

With the majority of vessels being equipped with AIS receivers, AIS ATONs are a good way to extend the existing network of physical ATONs and to improve visibility aof ATONs especially in low visibility situations.

However, with the recent news about possible vulnerabilities of the AIS standard in mind, the reliability of AIS based ATON has to be questioned. In this context, especially the use of virtual AIS ATONs without the relation to any physical counterpart seems inappropriate.

AIS ATON come in three different versions:

  • the AIS sender is located on a physical ATON (Real AIS ATON)
  • the signal is broadcasted from a base station, the location of the boradcasted ATON however is coinciding with the location of a physical ATON (Synthetic AIS ATON)
  • the boradcasted AIS ATON does not coincide with any physical ATON (Virtual AIS ATON)