Sirius Signal C-1002 eVDSD

A battery-powered alternative to pyrotechnic flares.

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Responsible boaters know to always carry flares aboard their vessels, not only to comply with the Coast Guard’s regulations, but to signal for help in the event of an emergency. However, traditional flares are no longer the only option boaters have for distress signals, nor are no longer the safest option, either.

Eleven years ago, the Coast Guard began discussing new distress signal options to eliminate the use of pyrotechnic flares for recreational boaters. In response, Sirius Signal developed a white eVDSD distress light, the C-1003, as a battery-powered alternative, and it has now followed that product with the new C-1002.

The C-1002 is a two-colored light that meets the USCG’s daytime and nighttime visual distress signal requirements and flashes the SOS signal. It features 13 LEDs in red-orange and cyan, and at the center of the LEDs is an infrared light, which makes it easy to detect with night-vision goggles, as well as against a white background.

“It’s a very serious piece of engineering,” says Anthony Covelli, CEO of Sirius Signal. “It’s so sophisticated in its timing sequence that the Coast Guard reportedly has satellites above that can detect this signal anywhere on the planet.”

The device is powered by eight CR123 lithium batteries that have a life expectancy of 10 years. The first set is included with the device, and replacements can be purchased in any store. The light is activated by a mechanical switch, much like the circuit breaker in your home, eliminating the need for wires, which have the propensity to fail.

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The distress light is not only safer than traditional flares, eliminating the associated fire hazard, but it has better longevity as well. The device is designed to be serviced, and according to Sirius Signal, it should be a lifetime product. Furthermore, whereas flares only emit a signal for approximately a minute, the C-1002 light can be flashed continuously for hours—and since there is no risk of fire, it can be displayed straight into the air for better visibility (flares must be held away from the boat, blocking the light by at least 180 degrees).

Equally important is the environmental benefits of the C-1002 light. Once traditional flares expire, they become explosive, and it is difficult to discard them legally as there are very few established recycling programs. Out of 52 counties in California, for example, only two have ongoing programs. The Coast Guard estimated in 2014 that 170,000 flares expire each year in California alone, and in Florida, that number is closer to 300,000. Without an easy way to dispose of these expired flares, many boaters simply throw them in the trash, which is both dangerous and a huge environmental hazard as they contain chemicals toxic to humans. One of those is perchlorate, which in high doses can interfere with iodide uptake into the thyroid gland, disrupting the functions of the thyroid (placing pregnant women and their fetuses at greatest risk). According to Sirius Signal, there is enough perchlorate in a single flare to contaminate 170,000 gallons of water if it goes into a landfill. Multiply that number by a few hundred thousand flares, and there’s the very real potential for an environmental crisis.

Boaters can activate their C-1002 light with their phone via Bluetooth (although it isn’t necessary), which also allows them to check the battery life. This connectivity has also made it possible for the company to design an accompanying smartphone app that is included with the purchase of any device. The Sirius Signal Alert & Notification App is yet another way that the company is making boating safer for recreational enthusiasts.

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The app’s most important functionality is that it enables users to file a digital float plan, which they can automatically send to five contacts along with a personalized message. Currently, the USCG’s float plan procedure requires downloading and printing out a two-page form, filling it out by hand and faxing it to contacts. This is a complicated and time-consuming process, and for that reason, approximately 90 percent of boaters never file one at all, according to the USCG’s figures.

The app drastically simplifies the process so that this important safety procedure could become commonplace on recreational vessels. Once the user presses “Start Trip,” the app automatically sends their launch point and time and expected return time to their contacts. It then uses their phone’s GPS to take the boat’s location every 10 minutes, and it stores this information in the Cloud to make it easier for the Coast Guard to detect its location in the event of an emergency. If the user does not end their trip by the estimated arrival time, they will receive notifications at the 15, 30 and 45 minute marks, and after an hour, the app will automatically notify their five contacts that they did not end their trip at the designated time.

Sirius Signal imagines a safer boating future, in which boaters can comply with the USCG and be prepared in the event of an emergency without bringing fire hazards aboard. “We say never buy flares again, and we mean it,” says Covelli. “The Coast Guard is understanding that flares are not safe and are environmental disasters. This is the future—it’s now.”

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