What is it? An AIS-enabled man overboard alarm that is small enough to slip into a pocket. £250.80. Contact: www.oceansignal.com
As smartphones bizarrely continue to get larger, to the point where today’s ‘phablets’ are almost too big to fit in a trouser pocket without attracting attention, the majority of us still want portable electronics to be compact. This particularly applies to personal rescue devices: the more portable they are the more likely they will be carried.
Ocean Signal may only be four years old, but the UK company already has impressive market traction in the safety sector owing to one small point: its products are very small.
Two years ago it launched the world’s smallest personal locator beacon (PLB), and has now followed up with the smallest AIS alarm for man overboard (MOB) and the most compact EPIRB on the market. Both products, featured here, represent a 30 per cent reduction in size compared with competitors, according to Ocean Signal.
AIS-enabled MOB alarms are of broad appeal because they can alert any AIS-equipped vessels in the vicinity to the precise location of a casualty in the water. So there is unsurprisingly a spate of new AIS alarms coming out in 2015.
Ocean Signal’s MOB1 model should be attractive again because of its size, but also its functionality and ability to fit onto any inflatable lifejacket’s oral tube. It has DSC alerting (subject to national regulations), which means it can both pinpoint an MOB’s location via AIS and trigger the yacht’s own VHF alarm.
The device will automatically activate when the lifejacket inflates by using an activation tape that encompasses the bladder. As the bladder fills the tape pulls the activation pin. The aerial deploys automatically, a light flashes and the MOB1 transmits an AIS signal – plus a DSC message if the MMSI number of the mothership is programmed in.
“The philosophy of the personal rescue device is hitting a nerve at the moment,” says Ocean Signal’s managing director Alan Wrigley. “For solo sailors a PLB is still best, but for crewed boats, it’s an AIS MOB.”
True to form, Ocean Signal’s new EPIRB1 is the most compact satellite beacon on the market, and boasts a ten-year battery life – twice the conventional amount. The antenna is stored within the unit, so is protected when stowed in a grab bag.
Its simple operation is noteworthy: pull out the antenna, detach the protection clip (red) and press the activation button. If it falls in the water the EPIRB1 will operate automatically. It signals its location in three ways: via the 406MHz Cospas-Sarsat satellite system using GPS position, a 121.5MHz homing beacon, plus two strobe lights.
Ocean Signal’s range of survival solutions will soon include an electronic flare too, of which we saw a sneak preview – more on that to follow in a forthcoming issue.
Other new AIS MOB devices
The German easyONE can also attach to any self-inflating lifejacket and self-activates – and it floats. The antenna unfolds automatically and an LED provides visibility at night. Initial tests have shown range to be about 5-6nm.
The company decided not to include DSC owing to local regulations. However, an EasyRescue PRO is coming out soon which will have DSC functionality. Battery life is 36 hours in permanent transmission mode. Launches in early 2015. Price around €300 (£236). www.easyais.de
Italian company WamBlee makes a range of rescue alert aids for the commercial and recreational marine sectors. The W420 is an AIS SART device that can be attached to a lifejacket and activated manually or automatically. Its flexible antenna is designed horizontally to use the sea’s reflection for efficiency. A W460 model is also available, which includes DSC.
Price €336 (£264). www.wamblee.it
This is an extract from a feature in the February 2015 issue of Yachting World