The long awaited Ocean Signal PLB3 personal beacon, combining AIS with PLB - here's our first hands on review

Product Overview

Overall rating:

Ocean Signal PLB3 personal beacon


  • a combined unit means you only need to keep track of one unit for battery replacement status


  • It's really very big, weighs a lot, difficult to fit inside a lifejacket


Ocean Signal PLB3 personal beacon review: the award winning plb and AIS combination

Ocean Signal PLB3 personal beacon

We’ve waited for a combined beacon for years and finally it’s here.

But the reality of what we wished for versus the fantasy is somewhat different.

If we take both the tiny PLB1 and the MOB1 and stack one on top of the other, what we effectively get is the PLB3. We haven’t actually saved any weight, well not much at any rate.

It seems like a great idea to have both personal locator beacon and an AIS in the same device but now we have it, I’m not sure if it was such a great idea after all. Now hear me out, I do think the PLB3 is a brilliant bit of kit. Without doubt it will save lives. Across fleets where multiple devices need to have their batteries and service intervals checked, having one device absolutely makes sense.

The near field communication is a really selling point that makes a huge difference to the user or maintenance person regular maintenance checks, knowing the ongoing status of your device without needing to press the test button and deplete a little bit of precious battery power. Simply wand your mobile phone with the app open and see the latest info pop up on screen. Genius!

But let’s get back to how big the Ocean Signal PLB3 personal beacon is.

I tested this on a Spinlock Vito. A good average snugly packed modern lifejacket. It fitted inside, just. It was a really tight fit and left the liufejacket stiff as a rod down the right hand side. This might be a little annoying for men, but I suspect for women it will be unbearable to wear this for any length of time.

Fitting the manual trigger is a doddle but fitting the automatic trigger system around the bladder and connected to various key strategic points is, I strongly suspect, beyond the patience and capability of even the most ardent of sailor. I think if you buy this, it’s a wise choice to get it professionally installed into your lifejacket if you opt for auto activation.

If you’re running a crewed boat, a fleet of professional maritime personnel or are heading offshore with a larger lifejacket then this is definitely one to invest in.

If you are pootling around the solent in a lightweight sailing jacket, then I might suggest you stick with a smaller MOB1 AIS device.

Buy it now from Amazon

For alternative personal AIS units and Personal locator beacons have a look at our tried and tested buyers guide