June 2012 Issue
FCC Approves Ais-based Mob Device
The Federal Communications Commission has approved promising new technology for man-overboard recovery. According to a press release issued from Kannad Marine (www.kannadmarine.com), the FCC has approved for sale in the U.S. the Kannad SafeLink R10 SRS, a personal Automatic Identification System (AIS) device designed to be worn by individuals and activated to assist in man-overboard recovery.
When we last reported on this topic in April 2011, new standards for these devices had just been established. All that was preventing them from entering the market was FCC approval.
West Marine is among the many retailers lined up to offer the product. Worn on a life jacket and activated by sliding off the safety tab and lifting an arming cap to deploy the antenna, the SafeLink R10 sends structured alert messages, GPS position, and a special identity code directly to AIS receivers within an approximately 4-mile radius. The position data is generated by a built-in GPS receiver that updates every 60 seconds. Using location, bearing, and range data indicated on the AIS receiver displays, crew members or nearby sailors will be able to locate the MOB, greatly increasing chance of survival.
The R10 can also be professionally fitted to a life jacket so that it automatically activates when the life jacket is inflated. A flashing LED light aids location at night. The R10 is guaranteed to transmit continuously for 24 hours and has a seven-year battery storage life. It is just less than 5 inches long and 2 inches thick, weighs 4.23 ounces, and is waterproof to 15 feet.
We will be testing this product as soon as one becomes available. One detail we are curious about is the range and reliability of transmission when the unit is attached to an inflatable life jacket. Since water interferes with radio transmissions, it will be interesting to see how well it can transmit in rough seas.
The manufacturer’s suggested retail price in the U.S. is $349.
Iridium Extreme Replacement
Satellite communications company Iridium recently instituted a replacement program for its Iridium Extreme satellite phones. Launched in September 2011, the rugged Iridium Extreme was the first sat phone with an SOS button. However, the company reported that some of the phones are having problems with their deployment sensor, reducing the phone’s performance, even with the antenna fully extended. The flaw also may result in the phones operating at power levels above the legal limits for radio frequency.
According to a statement from Iridium, the issue was traced to a manufacturing process that has been fixed, but “a significant number of shipped units may be currently affected.”
Anyone who purchased an Iridium Extreme 9575 prior to April 27, 2012, should contact their Iridium service provider to find out how to return the phone for a replacement. If you must use the phone before having it replaced, be sure to fully extend the antenna during all calls.
The Iridium 9555 sat phone is not affected by this issue.
For more information, contact Iridium at 480/752-5155 or www.iridium.com.
Practical Sailor is currently testing satellite communications devices, including Iridium phones, for a future report.