SDR dongles based on the Realtek RTL2832U chip and the new R820T2 tuner can work as a SDR AIS receivers. This device is more optimized than common SDR receivers and does not require calibration. OpenPlotter and Navigatrix systems are ready to get SDR AIS signal out of the box.
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Any VHF antenna with the appropriate connector adapter will work fine. Be sure you acquire the right antenna connector adapter.
Some home-made antennas:
If you want to get AIS signal on Windows systems you will have to manually install and configure several pieces of software.
Depending on the antenna and the software used with this device you can receive interesting frequencies for sailors: VHF-HF audio, weather satellites, weatherfax, navtex, outernet...
Complete list of received signals: http://www.sigidwiki.com/wiki/Signal_Identification_Guide
1 x SDR dongle (antenna adapters not included).