Furuno's FA-50 is also an unusual Class B AIS transponder. While every other model mentioned in this column, including the two Simrads, is based on a transceiver manufactured by the U.K. firm SRT, Furuno started from scratch, or rather from its experience as a major manufacturer of the Class A AIS hardware. I haven't seen it yet in my so-far-limited testing but Furuno may well have squeezed better receive or even transmit range from the tight Class B specification. The FA-50 is definitely the only Class B transponder with an Ethernet port and a self-contained Web server that a user or installer can use to manage and test the unit via any PC browser. The target and GPS data itself is available either via standard NMEA 0183 or Ethernet, though the latter will only work with certain networked Furuno radars and MFDs, and/or the MaxSea AIS Viewer PC program included in the $1,895 package. The latter is looking like a particularly able AIS target tracker, and GPS charting program, and is upgradable to the exciting TimeZero version of MaxSea coming out very soon.
This article originally appeared in the January 2009 issue of Power & Motoryacht magazine.