Appendix: Using the Qonnector

This document will give an explanation of the Qonnector and how it is used.
It will also give information about AIS features in Qastor.

What is an AIS transponder and what does it do

The AIS transponder is a device that transmits information about its own ship and receives information about other vessels in the vicinity.
According to the IMO an AIS transponder must be installed on vessels if they meet the following standards :

  • ships constructed on or after 1 July 2002;
  • ships engaged in international voyages carried out before 1 July 2002
  • in the case of passenger ships, not later than 1 July 2003;
  • in the case of tankers, not later than the first "safety equipment survey" after 1 July 2003;
  • in the case of ships, other than passenger ships and tankers, of 50,000 gross tonnage and upwards, not later than 1 July 2004;
  • in the case of ships, other than passenger ships and tankers, of 10,000 gross tonnage and upwards but less than 50,000 gross tonnage, not later than 1 July 2005;
  • in the case of ships, other than passenger ships and tankers, of 3,000 gross tonnage and upwards but less than 10,000 gross tonnage, not later than 1 July 2006;
  • in the case of ships, other than passenger ships and tankers, of 300 gross tonnage and upwards but less than 3,000 gross tonnage, not later than 1 July 2007; and
  • in the case of ships not engaged in international voyages carried out before July 2002.

The transponder gives information about name, call sign, speed, destination, heading, etc., and can display this on an ECDIS system.
Vessels which are displayed are called AIS targets.
Qastor is such an ECDIS system that can display AIS targets.

What is the Qonnector

The Qonnector, also known as 'pilot plug', is a device connected to the AIS transponder.
With this device connected to the transponder it is possible to display AIS information in Qastor.
The Qonnector is a wireless device that transmits the AIS information with bluetooth technology, see figure below:

The convenience of Bluetooth is, that any other Bluetooth device can connect to it and that the two Bluetooth devices don’t have to be of the same brand.
The range of the Qonnector is approximately 30 meters.

The pilot plug connection is usually mounted on the bridge console. A picture of such a connection is shown below:

The Qonnector is provided with a magnet so that it can be attached to metal objects. The connecting plug meets the IMO standard.
Not all vessels are equipped with a pilot plug that meets the IMO standard, therefore a switch is made to change the wire configuration of the Qonnector.
The switch is called TX/RX. The battery lifetime is approximately 24 hours. The battery can be charged with the included battery charger.

How to use the pilot plug

STEP 1) Connect the Qonnector to the pilot plug, which is located on the bridge as shown below:

STEP 2) Switch on the Qonnector. The green led will flash if the Qonnector is operative.
STEP 3) When Qastor is started go to “File” and then “Communication Setup”.
STEP 4) If the Qonnector is used in conjunction with an NMEA device, select NMEA as navigation source. When the Qonnector is used as positioning system select AIS as navigation source. See below:

STEP 5) Select “Add Device”, the following window will appear:

STEP 6) Give a name to the device, select the COM port on which the AIS data will be received and select a baud rate of 38400. Finish with “OK”.
STEP 7) To test if AIS data is being received press “Start Test”. To continue the installation press “Stop Test”.

Now the Qonnector configuration is finished.

Navigation screen

To display the AIS targets in the navigation screen a couple of operations must be done.

STEP 1) To enable the AIS Targets in the navigation screen go to “Targets” and select “Target Settings”, the following window will appear:

STEP 2) Select the type of targets that must be displayed, in this case it would be “AIS targets”.
STEP 3) Select “Mini labels” from the pull down menu to display mini labels for each target.
The label contains the name of the vessel. When no name is available then the mini label is disabled.
STEP 4) Select whether or not to fill the targets with a color.

AIS targets can have four different modes:

  • Normal
  • Slow (< 3 kts)
  • In safety radius
  • CPA (Closest Point of Approach) in safety radius
    The safety radius is set in the "General" tab, section "Vessel prediction".

STEP 5) Finish with “OK”.

The AIS targets that are within the range of the AIS transponder will be displayed in the ENC, see figure below:

Qastor can scale the AIS targets to their original dimensions if the dimensions of the vessel are available in the AIS message (see figure below).
Select whether the targets must be scaled automatically or below a scale of 1:20000.

Due to wrong input of parameters in AIS transponders, it is possible that targets are displayed incorrectly, for instance:

  • Wrong input of dimensions, which results in a strange vessel shape when the target is drawn to scale.
  • Wrong input of navigation parameters, like heading, which may result in the vessel sailing backwards or sideways.

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