John Konrad
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May 6, 2008

Automated Integrated Distress Device (AIDD)I stumbled upon this post while doing research for our EPIRB Failure series. It’s new distress system developed by researchers at John Hopkins University.

Basically the unit is mounted with a hydrostatic release, floats to the surface and contains an automatic activation mechanism just like an EPIRB. The primary difference however is while an EPIRB notifies rescue organizations shore-side the AIDD ( Automated Integrated Distress Device ) is intended to notify ships close by. So far, so good but here’s where the idea starts becoming questionable. The AIDD notifies local ships by launching 8 self contained flares in sequence and activating an internal strobe light.

While I like the idea of having a “dumb” EPIRB that can notify nearby vessels couldn’t we accomplish the same thing by mounting our SARTs with hydrostatic releases? I just worry since I personally know 2 ABs who have accidentally released the bridge smoke floats. One of these floats was dropped and landed on the deck 30′ below. Would the AIDD survive this fall without exploding? Could the fall trigger its automatic launch sequence? Would the Russians retaliate?

The only answer I have is it will have to pass the test of time. Until then we’ll just have to hope we can get a chance to give it a try.

Here here are a few snippets from John Hopkins

“Currently there’s no way to automatically signal distress to other vessels near your boat. You have to manually fire a flare gun or send a mayday message using your marine radio–devices that might not be accessible in a marine accident.”

A former naval architect with the Coast Guard, Borlase has conducted many maritime accident investigations. His inspiration for AIDD came after investigating the worst domestic fishing vessel accident in 50 years. “When the Arctic Rose sank in the Bering Sea in 2001, 15 people were killed despite a partnering boat operating nearby,” he says. “I’d like to think the crew might have survived had the AIDD been available.”

The Arctic Rose sank within minutes in an area with spotty radio coverage, Borlase says. Even though the crew’s EPIRB relayed a GPS signal through channels that eventually reached the Coast Guard, it was four hours before a rescue plane reached the area. “There was no sign of the boat or most of the crew,” he says. “It was as if they had fallen into a hole in the ocean.

If a boat sinks to depths of 20-30 feet, the hydrostatic release would automatically cut a strap, allowing the device to turn right-side up and float to the surface, which would trigger a strobe to continuously flash and flares to begin firing in a timed sequence. As a precaution to anyone near the device, a horn would sound several seconds before any flares were fired.

The overall design could easily be modified to incorporate an Emergency Positioning Indicator Radio Beacon (EPIRB)


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