Marine VHF with AIS: A Comprehensive Guide to Integrated Systems

Marine VHF radios with Automatic Identification System (AIS) capabilities have become an essential piece of equipment, offering crucial communication and safety functions.

These integrated systems allow for seamless exchange of information between vessels, providing mariners with real-time data on the position, speed, and course of nearby boats. 

With a wide variety of brands and models available on the market today, it’s essential to understand how VHF marine radio works to make an informed decision when purchasing a unit.

AIS technology complements the standard functionality of a marine VHF radio, ensuring that users can maintain water awareness and prioritize safety while on the water.

Garmin, Simrad, and Lowrance are among the leading brands offering VHF radios with AIS. 

Boaters using these advanced devices can expect a more convenient and secure experience than traditional VHF radios, with features such as Digital Selective Calling (DSC) for more efficient communication.

Key Takeaways

1️⃣ Marine VHF radios with AIS provide enhanced communication and safety features for boaters.

2️⃣ Top brands like Garmin, Simrad, and Lowrance offer a variety of VHF with AIS models.

3️⃣ Understanding how VHF marine radio works ensures users can make the most of the advanced functionalities.

🛒 Different Brands of Marine VHF with AIS

Marine VHF radios with AIS capabilities have become increasingly popular as boaters seek improved safety and communication features on the water. 

These devices combine the functionality of a VHF radio with an AIS receiver or transponder, allowing users to send and receive vessel information for enhanced situational awareness.

Some alternative brands offering marine VHF radios with AIS include Raymarine, Standard Horizon, and Icom.


Raymarine is known for its quality electronics and offers a range of VHF radios with AIS features, suitable for different types of vessels and budgets. 

One popular choice is the Raymarine Ray73, a multifunction VHF radio with an integrated dual-channel AIS receiver. This device provides efficient communication and navigation features while monitoring the positions of nearby AIS-equipped vessels.

Standard Horizon

Standard Horizon, another reputable brand in the marine electronics market, offers the GX2400 and other advanced VHF radios with AIS capabilities. 

The GX2400 is compact and feature-packed, including an integrated Class D DSC and NMEA 2000 connectivity. It combines a full-featured VHF marine radio and a dual-channel AIS receiver, providing boat owners with essential tools for safe and informed sailing.


In addition to Raymarine and Standard Horizon, Icom is another reliable brand offering VHF radios with AIS capabilities. 

Known for their high-quality products and innovative features, Icom has several marine radios integrating AIS technology, such as the ICOM M506 and M605 series. These radios have DSC functionality and enhanced communication tools for better performance in any marine environment.

When choosing a VHF marine radio, it is crucial to consider factors like reliability, integrated features, user interface, and compatibility with existing onboard systems to find the best fit for your vessel. 

By exploring the offerings of brands like Raymarine, Standard Horizon, and Icom, boaters can find a marine VHF radio with AIS that meets their needs and ensures a safe and enjoyable experience on the water.

🗼 VHF with AIS Functionality

Confidently navigating today’s busy waterways requires clear communication and situational awareness. A VHF radio with AIS functionality, such as an AIS receiver and transponder, is an essential component in achieving this goal.

Connectivity and Networking Components

Connecting your marine VHF with AIS to an onboard chart plotter or MFD (multi-function display) is straightforward and provides a more comprehensive view of the vessels around your position.

Safety and Collision Avoidance

The primary benefit of a VHF radio with AIS functionality is increased safety. The AIS receiver constantly scans for nearby marine vessels and their respective AIS transponders to gather real-time information on their course, speed, and identification details. 

This live data is displayed on your chart plotter or MFD, providing a clearer understanding of the marine traffic around you. 

In turn, this helps prevent potential collisions and navigational hazards, particularly in congested waterways and during low visibility conditions.

Additional Features

Aside from their primary features, marine VHF radios with AIS offer a variety of other advantages to mariners. Some VHF radios also incorporate a DSC (Digital Selective Calling) capability, a standardized protocol for sending and receiving distress calls. 

A radio with a built-in marine VHF with DSC feature and an AIS receiver and transponder offers improved safety and communication on the water. 

Additionally, specific advanced models may support NMEA 2000 or NMEA 0183 integration, allowing for seamless integration with other onboard electronics.

📳 Using Marine VHF with AIS

Radio Frequency and Modulation

Marine VHF with AIS operates by utilizing VHF radio frequencies to transmit and receive important information between vessels and shore stations. 

AIS transmissions are shared between two VHF frequencies that are at the high end of the marine VHF band, which are dedicated worldwide to AIS operations. 

These frequencies allow for reliable transmission of messages, ensuring the safety and efficiency of your vessel’s communication system.

When selecting a VHF radio with AIS capabilities, also look for a radio that includes DSC. Which, when incorporated with AIS, enables you to send and receive crucial information in coordination with the vessel’s NSS, such as GPS data and vessel-specific details.

To maximize the use of your marine VHF with AIS, consider connecting the system to a multi-function display (MFD). 

Which interfaces with various navigational instruments, providing a central hub for data and communication, making it straightforward and convenient for the operator. 

Connecting the AIS to something like the NSO evo3S from Simrad would give you an advanced navigation system with optimized safety and situational awareness.

Loudhailer Integration

Integrating a loudhailer with your marine VHF and AIS system further enhances communication capabilities. The loudhailer allows for broadcasting messages and alerts, both on the vessel itself and to nearby boats. 

This adds an additional layer of safety by allowing you to broadcast important messages, further improving your vessel’s communication system.

Remember that using an existing VHF antenna to operate both your marine VHF radio and AIS receiver simultaneously can risk causing damage to your devices, especially the AIS receiving unit. 

I recommend using separate antennas or investing in an AIS-capable antenna splitter to ensure optimal system performance.

I’m the founder and chief editor here at Sailing Savvy. I spent a decade working as a professional mariner and currently, I mix those experiences with digital publishing. Welcome, and I hope that we can be the hub you need for safe passage.