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S.O.S. Systems Corp.

Man Overboard System


Imperial College Second Year Initiative Electrical & Electronic Engineering Department

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S.O.S. Systems Corp.


Contents
1. Introduction 2. Existing Man Overboard Systems 2.1 MOBi and Raymarine 2.2 Sea Marshall AU9 3. Initial Design Ideas 3.1 Dog Collar Design 3.2 Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) 3.3 Pressure Sensor 4. Finalised Product Proposal 4.1 Radiolocation Emitter and Receiver 4.2 Life Jacket Pressure Sensor 4.3 Design Specifications 5. Product Pricings 6. Conclusion

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1. Introduction
Since the beginning of the exploration and the economic exploitation of the oceans the risk of falling of a boat has existed. And even though huge catastrophes such as the sinking of the Titanic have been prepared for with use of lifeboats and other highly developed search and rescue devices. For this reason people travelling or working on large and medium size vessels are unlikely to end up in a Man over Board situation. And indeed statistics and interviews have shown that on these ships experience very little emergencies in the category related to people falling overboard. The majority of personnel injuries and accidents come from collisions with objects at sea, on board crime and equipment malfunction. [1]

Figure 1 - A graph showing the distribution of UK registered fishing vessel accidents from 1992 to 2006

[2]

It is clear from this graph that person overboard has been the biggest contributor to fatalities at sea in comparison to others. Also, it shows that the number of accidents caused by this is two thirds more likely to occur on boats smaller than 24 metres in size. This would directly point to smaller marine fishing and private boats as our target market for our product. The statistics are typical of small fishing and private ships. On these small vessels it is still very likely that a person might fall over board. The biggest trouble with a Man Over Board (MOB) situation is that the crew may not have realised there is a member missing immediately, in which case the vessel might travel a considerable distance from the place of the incident. As a result it can be very hard to locate the person in distress and in most cases by the time this person is located it would be too late if located at all. This is where an MOB safety device would come in. The system sends an alarm to the vessel when someone falls over board, alerting the crew that one of them has fallen over the edge into the water. There are many systems already in place of a variety of different designs and specifications Page 3

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that can be used to do this. However none of them are ideal for reasons such as expensive set up and continual maintenance costs, insufficient reliability and low range beacon technology. The cost, coupled with the fact that currently there are no regulations set in place by the International Maritime Organisation (IMO) to make it compulsory for these boats to have any form of MOB system[3] means that very few crews actually employ MOB safeguard methods. For a lot of marine companies and private boat owners an MOB system is just an added hassle and something else to remember when getting prepared to make sail. They dont want to add yet another thing to their pre departure checks and have one more thing to worry about. For these reasons we have developed a design that will incorporate different technologies to those already in circulation and will be more affordable so as to ensure the safety of the people who put their lives at risk every day in order to provide for us and the general public. The essence of it is simplicity and being able to forget about it once the initial set up is complete

2. Existing MOB Systems


There are already systems in place for the detection and location of a man overboard. All of which have their respective advantages and disadvantages. In order for us to design a new innovative method we first had to research the existing ones and decide what we felt were the key flaws in these designs and decide how we could rectify them in our product.

2.1 MOBi and Raymarine


The Mobi and the Raymarine are very similar devices and effectively work on the same basic principal, the base units on vessels constantly detecting the tags around and monitoring their distance from the base. Starting with the distance detection mechanism, the base unit will set off an alert when the tags stay out of range. For the MOBi and Raymarine cases, they both achieve this by measuring the strength of signal broadcasted from the tags. If the signal strength received by the base unit drop below a certain level it will trigger the alarm indicating the person is out of its range[4][5]. However, there are significant defects in this mechanism. The tags must be in safe distance inside the circumference of the base unit range. Obviously most vessels adopt a stream-lined design and the circular coverage of the base unit is essentially not only covering the vessel, but the surrounding water too. This will delay the response when the crew member falling off from the sides of vessel, as the alert will only be triggered once the tag is complete outside of the base unit range. Moreover, these devices are required to be only all the time so that they are constantly emitting a signal. This means that on long journeys, which will be most journeys for fishing vessels, the battery life will not be sufficient and they will have to be removed to be charged. So a crew member will either have to go without their beacon or will need a reserve on which will just add extra cost and most companies will not be attracted by this.

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2.2 Sea Marshall AU9
The Marshall system, manufactured by MOBILARM, uses water sensing to identify that if the crew is fallen into the sea. The tag carried by the crew member will instantly send off a triggering signal once the crew has fallen into the sea[6]. Unfortunately, such system has a potential of being affected by bad weather. The tags may be triggered to send off unwanted alert if they get wet by rain and the situation can be chaotic on rainy day. For example in the product description Marshall Systems specify that the device should be transported in a dry condition, which would suggest that it is very sensitive to water. This is not ideal when you are at sea and do not want the homing beacon falsely every time a wave crashes overboard or there is a rain storm. Another disadvantage of this model is that there is no on board alarm triggered to notify the boat and its crew of a missing person. All it does is activate a homing beacon for a search and rescue party to be dispatched. Therefore, eve is the person could be easily rescued by the crew themselves an unnecessary search would begin for someone potentially 15 feet away for the vessel. This is not on a waste of time and money but it could also cause another life to be lost if the rescue crew is attending a false alarm whilst someone in need is drowning. To avoid this, we think that we can make use of pressure sensing instead of simply water sensing. Our main idea is that we incorporate a clip onto a lifejacket that will inflate with a pressure sensor to activate a location beacon, and sound an alarm on board to alert the crew members. This is our main initiative to start this project.

3. Product Design Ideas


The most basic requirement of the device is to send an alarm if a person has fallen of the boat. To accomplish this we investigated the use of various technologies. This section presents these technologies and gives their advantages as well as disadvantages.

3.1 Dog Collar


This idea uses the same technology which is used in perimeter fencing for dog control. It consists of a wire which is located in the soil and a battery powered wireless collar on the dog. If the dog approaches the fence the collar will send electric shock to stop the dog from crossing the boundary[7]. The idea was to use this technology as it is independent of the ship itself and the boundary wire would be set around the perimeter of the ship giving a finite region in which it would be activated. One would, of course, have to reprogram the collar to send an alarm signal rather than an electric shock and it would be adapted so not to be worn as a collar by the crew members. The main problem with this technology is that sailors and fisherman will operate on the very edge of the vessel all the time. This would cause the collar go off when a sailor approaches the railing. For this reason this technology cannot be used. Page 5

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3.2 Radio Frequency Identification (RFID)
RFID is frequently used in supermarkets to protect items from theft and for product transportation tracking. In a modified version this can be used to raise an alarm if the RFID emitter is not within the boundary range of the central signal antenna located on board the boat[8]. We quickly realized a few problems with this method. IT would be very difficult if not impossible to make the range of the receiver match the perimeter shape of the boat exactly. This is because the antenna range is roughly a circle and cannot be altered. Therefore, multiple smaller ranged antennas would have to be used. This would either leave spots on the boat with overlapping signals or no signal at all where the RFID would not function correctly thus we disregarded this method also.

3.3 Pressure Sensor

The idea is that there is no physical connection to the boat, instead we have a sensor attached to the person via a self-inflating lifejacket which detects whether they are underwater. We would integrate a switch into the pressure sensor itself that will be triggered send a signal to the boat to alert it of a person that has fallen into the water. This device would be resistant to heavy rain and would only need to be submerged 10 centimeters under water to be triggered[9]. The disadvantage of this exact method is that it might prove to be quite difficult to modify the pressure sensor to add the switch triggering system. The cost of this device would be far too high because it would require the user to replace the entire pressure sensing device each time it is used which has ruled out using this method as it is.

4. Final Product Design


In our Final design we have decided that the best approach would be to use a combination of the ideas stated above with some slight adaptations so as to ensure maximum functionality along with value for money. Also, what we realised was the importance of a device that does not require constant maintenance and tampering from the users so that it is easy to fit and then forget about until it is needed so it doesnt restrict the users in any way. Also, many other devices all require an extra item to be worn whether it be a pendant or a bracelet. This is just one more item to lose or forget. We have come up with a design which, once fitted, need not be worried about until it has been used. We have decided to use the water pressure sensor along with a radiolocation beacon which works in a similar way to the RFID explained above without some of its downfalls. Below is a flow chart diagram of how the system will function when in contact with the water:

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Rotate Antenna

Pressure Sensor

Inflate Life Jacket

Emitter Activation

Receiver Antenna

Log GPS Location

MOB Alarm 4.1 Radiolocation Emitter and Receiver


As previously stated, we have investigated many different ways in which to locate a person who may have fallen overboard. Our finalised method would include using radiolocation technology. This is a relatively simple technology that is already widely utilised in tracking stock and goods when in transit. The basic principle is that there is a small transmitter that emits ultrahigh frequency (UHF) radio wave chirps that can be detected using a receiver which will recognise the emitted signal. For the most accurate location to be achieved there must be two separate detectors available at known geographical locations so they can detect the incoming signal and use either time of arrival (TOA) or angle of arrival (AOA) algorithms to gradually narrow down the location as they get closer to the transmitter[10]. To apply radiolocation to our MOB system the emitter will be attached to the jacket via a pressure sensor that is explained below. We believe the strongest selling point of our system over all other systems currently on the market today, will be its longevity and simplicity. The radiolocation emitter is a very low power device so it will have a good battery life. The fact that the battery is only in use when in contact with the water means that the battery will only be used when in the water so it will continue to emit the distress signal for days. The overall power efficiency of the transmitter that we will be using is in the region of 82%[11], this high efficiency can be achieved because of new technological advancements is the field of MOSFETs (MetalOxideSemiconductor Field-Effect Transistor) as they are used in digital logic gates as a replacement to resistors which are very inefficient, due to I2R power loss. The internal microprocessors are capable of being programmed to control the power consumption; this will however affect the transmitter range so if the range is made shorter the batteries will last even longer. This is advantageous in multiple ways. The user will not have to worry about renewing their device or charging it up before each voyage like most other devices. Furthermore, if the person who has fallen overboard cannot be immediately rescued the device will continue to emit the UHF radio wave chirps for a long enough period of time for them to be rescued safely.

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The receiver is not dissimilar to a standard television areal. It will receive the chirps that are emitted by the transmitter and relay them to the receiver unit in order to be decoded. For the best range and cleanest signal the receiver will be positioned at the highest possible point on the boat so as not to impede its line of sight and muffle the signal. This antenna is a directional antenna. Therefore, to scan to entire surrounding area the antenna would be mounted on a rotation platform. If a signal was detected the receiver unit will trigger a response signal that will be directly linked to the boats GPS tracking system and log the current location co-ordinate of the boat in case the missing person cannot be located immediately. A potential method of detection would be using the TOA detection. The transmitter emits the chirps at known time intervals. The receiver will use a simple calculation algorithm the time between each received pulse and will be able to calculate whether the time intervals are getting smaller or large, assuming that the boat is moving[10]. The closer to the person it gets the shorter the time interval between received signals and vice versa depending on which direction you are moving with respect to the transmitter. This device will not however give an exact distance it will instead produce an audible beep that will become more frequent within closer proximity, similar to a hand held metal detector. However, this technology does present some problems when it comes to applying it to our MOB system. Firstly the radiolocation emitter will not work properly when submerged by water. This is because water is extremely good at absorbing very high frequency radio waves. Therefore, we have decided that the best, most cost effective, way of avoiding this problem is to attach the antenna of the emitter to a float, similar to those used for fishing, which will be attached to the life jacket by a length of strong cord. This will be ejected from the life jacket on contact with the water and will remain floating on the surface so as to avoid total submersion.

4.2 Life Jacket Pressure Sensor


During the process of looking for a triggering system that would send the alarm when a man went overboard, we investigated how automatic inflation lifejackets are triggered. The idea is that there is no connection to the boat, instead we have a sensor attached to the person which detects whether they are underwater. There are several systems that are used in practice. The most common one uses a water soluble substance that hold back a spring (United moulders : a paper element; Halkey Roberts : a salt bobbin; Secumatic : a pill)[9]. The problem with this approach is that the system might trigger in heavy rain or when the sailor is exposed to water in any other way, e.g. doing wet work. A more reliable system uses a hydrostatic valve. This requires the valve to be approximately 10cm under the water surface. In the case of a person falling of a boat it is inevitable that this depth will be satisfied given as the person will hit the water and sink until the life jacket inflates. Using this method there would also be potential to couple the triggering system of a lifejacket, if the sailor is wearing one, with our alarm system. However, after investigating those sensors we realised that each time the sensor is used the entire device must be replaced which means our system cannot be directly connected to it. Instead, we will still rely on that pressure sensor as a trigger but it will not be used as an electrical switch. The idea is that when the lifejackets inflates it releases spring loaded contacts clipped inside the life jacket on the internal inflatable part, and not the external lining. This will connect the batteries to Page 8

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the emitter, and it will begin emitting a signal. This allows us to have a device that is fully independent from the pressure sensor, which means it can be sold separately from the lifejacket and doesnt need to be replaced after every use. The user can install the system himself and reload it after use by simply re-clipping the contacts inside the lifejacket. The best way to do this would be to connect the power supply to the triggering device, so that the device is off when not triggered. This would preserve battery power, make it easier for the user, and more reliable as opposed to all the other existing systems where it is necessary to check the battery levels regularly. To sum up, the clip triggered system offers a cheap and user friendly system, once placed inside the life jacket the user need not worry about it. There is no need to check battery level and as it is completely integrated inside the jacket there is no extra bulky device as opposed to other available solutions as it is. Furthermore, because the system is powered up on the inflation of the jacket the activation time is determined and restricted only by the length of time taken for the pressure sensor to inflate it. The system starts to emit as soon as the jacket is inflated which takes a maximum of 4-5 seconds[12]. Below is a diagram giving an idea of what the clip attachment inside the jacket would look like:

Hammer Pressure Sensor

Battery Contacts

Life Jacket Inner Tube

Spring Loaded Clip


Figure Simulated picture of the activation clip attached to the inner section of the life jacket

4.3 Design Specifications


Our product will be a combination of the methods described above. To reduce costs whilst ensuring maximum reliability the method of detection will not require two receiving antenna as stated above but will only require one. This is not necessarily as accurate however it provides a good enough degree of accuracy as well as being cheap. Also it means that it is not necessary for there to be more than one antenna so the recovery process will be much faster which is the essence of this device. The emitter device that we shall use will be a 434 MHz chirp beacon transmitter[13]. We contacted the company that would supply us with the components to inquire as to its suitability for our task and to investigate whether it had been used in devices for a similar purpose before. We discovered that this is commonly used in animal tracking systems and works very effectively[14]. However, as Page 9

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mentioned above, water has a greater absorption effect on higher frequencies, and this is a much higher frequency than the international standard of 121.5MHz. This is why we will use the float to ensure that the emitter is not within immediate proximity of the water. This will maximise its range and even at its lowest power will still give a range of upwards of 3 kilometres. We chose this device as it comes completely packaged without the need to attach it to an extra circuit and requires only a 5V battery to power it, and the float housing, which will reduce manufacture costs. In order for the device to make the high frequency chirp, the microprocessor has a DC/AC converter which creates a sinusoidal wave form. At the lowest voltage point of the wave a transistor will be turned on which will create a current pulse. The current through this transistor will rapidly increase for a small fraction of the cycle period of the wave which will cause a large transient spike. Effectively this spike is equivalent to pushing a swinging pendulum. It causes an impulse that will create a resonant ring that the microprocessor converts into a high frequency chirp.

Figure Picture of the Emitter

For our receiver we shall use a directional antenna attached to an EVK board mounted upon a rotating platform. It will work in a similar fashion to most widely used animal tracking systems. The reason for the rotating platform is that if the antenna were static and not pointing in the direction of the person overboard it would only detect a weak signal and the entire boat would have to turn in order to find the exact direction. The antenna would initially be immobile and when a signal is detected (whether the antenna is pointing in the correct direction or not it will still detect a signal although it may be weak) the platform will begin to turn until it has found the direction in which the signal strength is at its maximum. It will simultaneously relay a message to the boats central navigation system to log the GPS location and alert the driver that a person has fallen over board. It shall be connected using a simple USB cable that will be attached directly to the antenna base[14]. The antenna will not require any special adaptations to the boat. It will be mounted to the highest, most appropriate position on the boat to maximise the detectable range, and it shall be powered directly from the boats battery ensuring a reliable constant source. Furthermore, for the device to inform the crew of whether they are getting closer there will be a small speaker and LED (Light Emitting Diode) attached to the receiver located in the cabin that will beep and flash, becoming more frequent as the signal strength from the emitter increases indicating that they are nearing the MOB.

Figure Picture of the Antenna

5. Pricings
The cost of this device is split into 3 main areas: the emitter, the receiver, and the life jacket clip. The emitter pricing can then be split further into two parts: the float and the emitter itself. Below is a table of pricings for the components needed in the manufacturing process. Page 10

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Component
Emitter Float Sensor Antenna

Specification
434MHz chirp beacon Ball float with antenna attachment Directional scanner with AVK board

Unit Price (Individual Unit)


48.25 3.25 200.00

Unit Price (Bulk)


20.00 3.25 180.00

The bulk of the cost from this device is clearly from the antenna[14]. This would make the initial set up cost high however they are still lower than those of other devices on the market by upwards of 100. Also the individual units for attaching to the lifejacket are cheaper than the cheapest of its competitors which come in at around 50 for the cheapest one if you wish to buy an extra individual device.

6. Conclusion
In conclusion, we have investigated the importance of improved safety on board commercial fishing craft and private boats and it is clear that something drastic needs to be done to lower the rate of fatalities as a result of a person overboard. Probably, the most effective way for this to happen is for much better methods of personnel safety apparatus and some form of regulating the way in which these incidents are detected. The only way to convince fishing companies and private boat owners to invest in MOB protection systems is to find a way to make them more cost effective and less of an irritation for people whilst on the boat. Having lots of extra devices for people to carry or wear clearly isnt working effectively. There are already many different devices that can are in use but none of which are used universally for the safety of the crew on board. Because of this we believe that our method is ideally suited to enter the market and fill the gap in safety equipment which it is evident there is.

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References
[1] - http://www.marineinsight.com/marine/life-at-sea/maritime-history/worst-9-cruise-shipaccidents/ - date accessed 02/03/2013 [2] - www.maib.gov.uk date accessed 10/01/2013 [3] Telephone interview Mr Hyunkyum Kim, CEO. Panstar [4] - http://www.nasamarine.com/ - date accessed 01/03/2013 [5] - http://www.raymarine.co.uk/ - date accessed 01/03/2013 [6] - http://mrtsos.com/ - date accessed 01/03/2013 [7] http://www.countrystoredirect.com/acatalog/Pet_Containment.html?gclid=COOu0am43rUCFeXKtA odGU8AEQ - date accessed 27/11/2012 [8] http://www.technovelgy.com/ct/technology-article.asp?artnum=20 - date accessed 27/11/2012 [9] http://www.sailingproshop.com/lifejacket.aspx - date accessed 27/11/2012 [10] United States Patent, 3750178, July 31st 1973 [11] - http://radiolocation.tripod.com/Beacon/BEACON.htm - date accessed 23/01/2013 [12] - http://www.cmhammar.com/products/lifejacket-inflators/how-does-it-work-faq-10questions-and-answers/ - date accessed 02/03/2013 [13] - http://www.findtheneedle.co.uk/companies/jpa-electronics/products/radiolocationtransmitters - date accessed 12/12/2013 [14] Email conversation with Jamie Atkinson of JPA Electronics 28/02/2013

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