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August 23, 2012

New Personal Locator Beacons

New rescue beacons expand safety options for mariners

Anglers who’ve heard about or seen pictures of a handheld device called an AIS SART (automatic identification system search and rescue transponder) — introduced at the 2011 Miami International Boat Show — might have wondered about the publicity. No such product hit store shelves, nor did anyone see a SART on the water.

That’s because the approval process by our Federal Communications Commission can take time. But this spring, two AIS SARTs — Kannad Marine’s SafeLink R10 ($349, kannad​marine​.com) and Weatherdock’s easyRESCUE (easyais​.de) — earned FCC approval.

These devices transmit an alert message, GPS-position information and an ­identification number to the plotters of nearby AIS-equipped vessels — possibly including your own — using the two AIS frequencies. Previous man-­overboard systems, such as Raymarine’s LifeTag, sent ­information to a base unit aboard the victim’s vessel.

Kannad designed its SafeLink R10 as an attachment for personal flotation devices; the SART can broadcast its distress signal about four miles, depending on sea conditions. (Weatherdock did not respond to e-mailed questions about its larger easyRESCUE by press time.)

Will this new piece of equipment change the world of electronic safety for anglers? That depends on several factors, including the adoption of AIS aboard recreational vessels and the willingness of private boaters to help one another on the water.