Pinpointing the exact location of a maritime distress signal quickly and efficiently can mean the difference between life and death at sea. It is an issue close to the heart of Alan Wrigley, Managing Director, Ocean Signal, the maritime communications specialist. Keen to ensure that his customers receive a swift response from rescue services, Alan incorporated a GPS positioning chip in his latest E100G Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB). He sought the advice of Alpha Micro, independent distributor of electronic components and experts in GPS positioning solutions.
An EPIRB is a radio transmitter which, when set off as a result of an emergency at sea, transmits a signal via satellite to land-based emergency station, so a rescue can be coordinated. According to Alan, there are two distinct disadvantages to EPIRBs which do not feature GPS – the first being that the satellite can only work out the position of a vessel by orbiting and typically only within a five mile radius of the vessel, and the second being that because the satellite is orbiting, it takes time for the distress signal to be picked up. With the addition of GPS, geo stationary satellites are able to pick up the signal instantaneously and provide positioning coordinates within a of 50 metres radius, so the speed of response from rescue services can be much faster.
Aware that the EPIRB and GPS module would need to meet standards defined by the International Maritime Organisation (SOLAS), International Electrotechnical Commission, European Directives and Decisions and United States Coastguard as well as many other applicable national and international rules, Alpha Micro recommended the u-blox NEO-5Q high performance GPS receiver module. Distinguished from its competition by its superfast ‘ KickStart’ acquisition technology, the NEO-5Q becomes active within 30 seconds of a cold start, so the EPIRB which lies dormant until activated, can transmit a distress signal almost instantaneously.
Alpha Micro also helped Ocean Signal to optimise the signal transmitted by the EPIRB by designing an antenna solution specifically optimised for the E100G.
Commenting on the support he received from the design team at Alpha Micro, Wayne Card, Senior Engineer, Ocean Signal, said: “The design team at Alpha Micro were extremely helpful at all times. Response time was super swift and all our technical queries were resolved quickly and efficiently. If they weren’t able to provide an answer, the team would seek advice from the manufacturer of the component, keeping us in the loop at all times. I was very impressed.”
Commenting on the contract, Maxine Hewitt , Marketing Director, Alpha Micro Components concluded: “We are really excited about working on a project that can potentially save people’s lives. The Ocean Signal range of safety products which greatly assist in search and rescue operations have a reputation for reliability and quality. U-blox offers world class solutions for this type of application and with their next generation of modules, we feel that Ocean Signal will be benefitting from even better accuracy and speed of location.”
Alpha Micro’s design-based approach to distribution and in-depth product knowledge includes a team of in-house design engineers that work at integrating components from the company’s franchised product lines into board-level designs, therefore adding real value to the solutions on offer and providing customers with products that exactly meet their varied and demanding requirements.