Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers to your questions here!

  • What is M2?

    M2 stands for marine monitoring, and M2 is a vessel monitoring platform that uses familiar tools known to vessel operators to document activity of all kinds, from commercial shipping to kayaking, within the nearshore marine environment. M2 uses a marine radar system to identify and track boats on the water, just like what you would use on a smaller boat for navigation. A M2 camera captures photos so boats can be documented. M2 can be deployed to remote or rugged locations, and it’s able to provide continuous data collection year-round without interruption. It is 100% autonomous. 

  • How does a radar work?

    According to Furuno, a Radar (Radio Detection And Ranging) is an instrument that can detect surrounding objects using radio waves. Thus, in the maritime world, objects such as ships, buoys or birds can be detected by Radars. The use of short-wavelength microwaves allows a very accurate measurement of the direction in which the object is detected and the distance at which it is located. Radars are also widely used in everyday life to measure the speed of cars on a road, or the speed of a tennis ball on a court, for example.


    To learn more about Radar technology, please visit Furuno’s Radar Basics website

  • What is AIS?

    The Automatic Identification System, or AIS, transmits a vessel’s position so that other boats are aware of its position. The International Maritime Organization (IMO) and other management bodies require large ships, including many commercial fishing vessels, to broadcast their position with AIS in order to avoid collisions. Each year, more than 400,000 AIS devices broadcast vessel location, identity, course and speed information. Ground stations and satellites pick up this information, making vessels trackable even in the most remote areas of the ocean.


    The M2 system collects data provided by the AIS transmissions of vessels within its range and makes this information available along with data collected by radar. M2 receives transmissions from both Class A and Class B AIS transceivers. Since Class B is typically used by recreational vessels that are not required to participate in AIS, these data may lack some of the vessel identification information provided by larger vessels using Class A.


  • What is the difference between shore-based AIS and satellite- AIS (S-AIS)?

    When satellites are used to receive AIS messages, the term Satellite-AIS (S-AIS) is primarily used. The systems that ingest S-AIS data can monitor AIS traffic globally through a single platform (such as MarineTraffic) and rely on AIS data from a number of different sources. These data are not typically real-time and can be several hours old. M2 systems utilize land-based AIS receivers that are deployed with the M2 radar and camera. These land-based AIS systems have less coverage than S-AIS, but are a single source for AIS data that is managed by the M2. M2 systems receive AIS data roughly every six seconds, meaning the data are real-time. 

  • Who uses M2 systems?

    M2 was originally designed to support marine protected area (MPA) monitoring and enforcement efforts, but since its inception, M2 has also emerged as a valuable tool for a variety of other applications. M2 is used for science as a data collection tool for researchers interested in human impacts on marine areas and species at risk. Additionally, M2 has been used to inform topics like vessel strikes to whales and underwater noise pollution. M2 also contributes to maritime safety. In one instance, M2 was used to monitor a container ship that had suffered a fire onboard and was drifting toward oil platforms off the coast of California. M2 provided live monitoring to authorities while response vessels made their way to the scene and saved the container ship from colliding with offshore oil platforms. 

  • What is needed to deploy an M2 system?

    The M2 radar needs to have a clear line of sight from its location to the marine managed area in order for it to do its job. Generally, the closer the M2 is to the shore, the better. However, there are some considerations to be also aware of, including: 

    • No objects or obstacles between the antenna location and the area being monitored
    • Radar antennas should be as close to the shore as possible for best visibility 
    • The shoreline should be no further than the distance obtained by multiplying the planned antenna height by 3.73. For example, a radar on a 10-meter tower should be no more than 37 meters from the immediate shoreline. 

    The radar site should also have access to power, either through grid power or an offgrid power system and requires ~200 Watts to operate (or 4800 Watts per day). The M2 system can operate on both 24VDC or 120VAC. 

    The M2 system was designed to operate and record data without internet connection. All data is recorded onsite on the local M2 system and can be accessed and downloaded directly from the system without the internet. However, an internet connection is strongly encouraged because it will enable real time monitoring of live traffic and will allow for remote access and communication by the M2 team to manage and support the system remotely.  Contact us at to find out if your location can be suitable for the deployment of a M2 system.


  • What is the range of the M2 system?

    The M2 system typically tracks vessels via radar up to 5 nautical miles from the location of the M2 system. Targets may be detected and tracked beyond this range depending on local conditions and size of the vessel. Radar detects vessels based on line-of-sight, so in general, the detection range is dependent on size of the vessel on the water and height of the antenna. 

    Also within this range, there are some limitations to target identification, such as interference from buildings or land, and poor weather conditions that increase ‘noise’ detected by the radar, which can increase the number of false targets. 

    In the M2 Viewer, the Radar Coverage overlay (which is in blue) designates the reliable range of radar-detected targets at each unique site and takes radar shadows into account.

  • What is the range of the AIS receiver?

    Targets identified and tracked using the Automatic Identification System (AIS) are not limited by the range of the radar system. These data are transmitted and received by the M2 system over very-high-frequency (VHF) channels which are generally limited by line-of-sight, and can be greater than 5 nautical miles over flat surfaces. Based on data received by M2 systems, the detection range of AIS data transmissions is typically 25 nautical miles. However, AIS data transmissions are dependent on line-of-sight, a functioning transponder onboard the vessel, and atmospheric conditions.

  • Can the M2 system track radar and AIS targets?

    Yes, the M2 radar system tracks all vessels within its range, so radar track duplicates of vessels transmitting Automatic Identification System (AIS) data within the radar range are likely. In the M2 Viewer’s Live Tracks View Mode, both the AIS track and the radar-detected track will be visible.

    AIS and radar tracks are associated when detection points from both meet the following qualifications: 

    • Points were within 100 meters in geolocation
    • Points were detected less than 15 seconds apart
    • Points had a difference in speed less than 1.5 knots
    • Points had less than a 10-degree difference in heading

    If two points meet all requirements, one association is created. Radar-detected vessel tracks with more than 20 points associated with an AIS track are hidden in the M2 Viewer’s Playback Tracks View Mode since the range of AIS tracks is typically larger than the radar range.

    To view all radar tracks regardless of AIS association in the Playback Tracks View Mode, use the ‘Delink AIS & Radar Tracks’ toggle in the Playback Tracks filter menu.

  • What is the range of the camera?

    The M2 camera, when properly calibrated and maintained, can reliably capture target images sufficient to determine the type and relative size of most vessels within 2.5 nautical miles and large (>15 meter vessels) up to 4 nautical miles. Detection capability can be diminished under certain environmental conditions like fog, rain, and increased wave activity. Vessels beyond 4 nautical miles are often visible in images, but can typically only be used to confirm vessel presence. With the cameras primarily used on our M2 systems, we have broadly set the following capabilities:


    1 nautical mile = Identify Vessel

    3 nautical miles = Identify Vessel Type

    5 nautical miles = Confirm Vessel Presence

  • Is it possible to increase the range of the camera?

    M2 uses a reasonably priced Pan-Tilt Zoom (PTZ) camera, which provides good image quality out to 2.5 nautical miles. That said, if a customer is interested in greater zoom capabilities, alternative cameras can be integrated into the M2 platform. However, please be aware that other PTZ cameras can range from a few thousand dollars, upwards to hundreds of thousands of dollars. Generally speaking, M2 is compatible with most IP-based PTZ cameras that support the ONVIF protocol. If you have a camera you would like to integrate into the M2 platform or if you’re interested to know if a select PTZ camera would work with a M2, please reach out to the M2 team at to confirm it is compatible with our system. 

  • Are radars safe?

    The M2 platform includes a radar antenna typically installed at the helm of recreational vessels. These antennas comply with radiation exposure limits in an uncontrolled environment and meet all radio frequency exposure guidelines set forth by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC) documentation.

    When the antenna is not spinning (not transmitting), it is safe to approach and interact with the device at any distance.

    When the antenna is spinning (transmitting), an individual should not be within 25 feet (7.5 meters) of the radar beam's path.

    The beam path extends vertically ±11° from the antenna, so the area directly underneath is safe. With the antenna at a height of 11 feet (3.5 meters) off the ground, a safe distance is provided completely around the antenna. Since M2 sites are typically located onshore, "sector blanking" is used to hide the land area from the view of the radar, and the beam is not transmitted there. The antenna can be safely approached at any distance in this area (behind the antenna, opposite the water). To ensure safety, all M2 systems are installed at or above 15 ft to ensure safety in all directions.  

    Note - The greatest risk posed by the radar is to your eyes. If you are standing directly in front of the antenna while it's transmitting at a distance of less than 6.5 feet (2 meters), please move away from it while it’s transmitting. Once the transmitting is over, you can approach it again. 

  • Where is M2 deployed?

    We work  all over the world and are continuously looking for new opportunities and partners to deploy additional systems. We work closely with partners and organizations on the ground to identify suitable locations for our technology and provide remote tech support to partners and customers globally. See our deployment map for more information.

  • How is data access managed?

    Access to M2 data is strictly controlled and managed on a site by site basis and is determined by either our partners or customers who can designate system administrators that can determine data access for each site, by user organization or by user. All data that are stored offsite in the cloud are secure via an Amazon Web Services (AWS) Server.  The M2 camera system is programmed to solely photograph public spaces. Site-specific area photos taken from M2s are calibrated beforehand to ensure that people onshore and specific onshore and private areas are never photographed.


  • How can I access M2 data?

    In coordination with partners and customers, data packages are available to users in the M2 Viewer if they have been approved by site managers. Site-specific data have been provided to approved outside parties in the past for research purposes. If you have interest in using M2 data, please reach out to our team at

  • Can M2 integrate with a drone?

    M2 is currently in the process of integrating M2 radar and camera systems with FlightWave UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) in partnership with San Francisco State University. The drone integration will enable M2 to send M2 radar-detected coordinates to Flightwave's UAV that will then travel autonomosuly to those coordinates, conduct fly-overs, and send imagery back to the M2 platform. This will extend the range of visual monitoring beyond M2's land-based camera system. Currently, M2 is integrated only with  If you have a specific drone you are interested in using with the M2 platform, please reach out to the M2 team at to discuss potential integration.