A waterproof patch could save a life at sea

I recently saw a cable TV show about someone lost at sea after he escaped a damaged plane. He survived but had a harrowing experience adrift for over 24 hours with nothing to be able to signal anyone that he was alive.

Researchers from Finnish company Patria and the Tampere University of Technology, working under the auspices of the European Space Agency (ESA), have developed a patch that’s a flexible waterproof fabric antenna that could end up saving lives.

The patch can be sewn into a life vest and, once activated, will transmit its coordinates to satellites orbiting the earth. These then would immediately relay the person’s location to rescue personnel.

This compact patch / antenna utilizes the Cospas-Sarsat worldwide search and rescue satellite system, an international project in place since the Cold War that incorporates satellite receivers that are continuously listening for emergency radio beacons from transmitters on ships, aircraft or people.

This new device is flexible, lightweight, and both wear- and waterproof. And it’s surprisingly powerful for such a small sized antenna that transmits at such low  frequencies that the Cospas-Sarsat are set to receive. This along with the similarly sized antenna being designed to be attached to a fisherman’s diving vest – part of the ESA’s Safe@Sea project,

Although it won’t make lost-at-sea rescues as simple as opening your garage doors, it’s a major step forward towards rapid recovery for those who find themselves in this kind of perilous situation.

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