AIS MOB: Kannad SafeLink R10 & McMurdo SmartFind S10

... written for Panbo by Ben Ellison and posted on Mar 2, 2011

New in Miami were both the Kannad brand and its interesting AIS-based SafeLink R10 "survivor recovery system."  And more sorting out was in order when your realized that McMurdo was showing the very similar SmartFind S10 in the very same booth.  Note too how the Kannad SafeLink PLB in the background looks a heck of lot like the popular McMurdo FastFind.  What's going on is that Kannad, a longtime French distress beacon company, became a sibling to McMurdo when Orolia bought both of them, and now they're working as partners in a somewhat overlapped fashion...

In fact, the two "personal AIS beacons" -- or PABs if you like McMurdo's terminology, and I do -- contain exactly the same core technology, which is to say that they are small versions of the AIS SARTs that were discussed here a bit last year.  The difference is that the Kannad model can be fitted to a lifejacket so that it is automatically activated when the jacket inflates, while the McMurdo model is rated to 60 meter depths (instead of 5) so that it can carried by serious divers.  As I understand it those differences reflect how Kannad will be positioned as a recreational marine brand while McMurdo gets a more commercial orientation.  Though I should note that you can't buy either one of these PABs in the U.S. until they're approved by the FCC, and then they will retail for $350.
   I do like the idea of a MOB system that includes GPS location and can be seen by your own boat and others close by, as long as they are plotting AIS targets.  But I think it will be a while before many onboard AIS plotters are programmed to alarm an AIS SART sighting (though I did see it on a Vesper Watchmate), and I've yet to see any reports about how well AIS SART technology works when used by a someone in the water as opposed to being in a lifeboat or raft. There's also competition with DSC VHF MOB solutions, like the BriarTek ORCAdsc, which can potentially deliver GPS location and a loud alarm to most any boat around.  An issue with the ORCA, as noted in my entry about it, is that U.S. authorities don't want these devices to set off every DSC alarm in the vicinity, but I understand that a new ruling is in the works that will let them alarm their own boat for 30 minutes or so, and then all boats.  It's amazing actually how many different MOB retrieval systems there are, and what an active niche it is, as witnessed by today's merger of Mobilarm and Marine Rescue Technologies.



Ben, any thoughts on how these stack up relative to Weather Dock's easyRESCUE? Col

Posted by: Columbus at March 3, 2011 8:56 AM | Reply

Those new products from McMurdo look brilliant. They are clearly leading the way in next-generation MOB devices. I too saw the Vesper AIS 'plotter' which sets off an audio alarm when an AIS SART message is received.

Posted by: James Money-Coutts at March 3, 2011 9:28 AM | Reply

Col, I was going to mention easyRescue but the main product page only mentions use in a lifeboat or liferaft. However, I just looked at the presentation you can download there, and WeatherDock definitely thinks this device can be used by a person in the water. Maybe one of Panbo's European readers knows of testing or reviews?

Posted by: Ben E in reply to Columbus at March 3, 2011 9:47 AM | Reply

Ben, THX. EPIRB/PLB/AIS Sart/Sart are imminent purchases for us. The right mix is elusive and all together are muy expensive for perhaps too much overlap in capability. Col

Posted by: Anonymous in reply to Ben E at March 3, 2011 9:57 AM | Reply

I have the Weatherdock EasyRescue. It does bring up an alarm on current AIS enable Raymarine plotters. Haven't had chance to try on other brands. The plotters distinguish between SART alarm and the SART test message.
It comes with a clip for attaching to lifevests and is designed to use in the water or liferaft. It currently goes for around $372 down here in the Caribbean.

Posted by: Derek at March 3, 2011 10:30 AM | Reply

Thanks, Derek. Maybe I can get one of these companies to loan me one of these personal AIS SARTs (PAS?) so I can test it with Gizmo's suite of MFDs and charting programs. Frankly I didn't realize that there is a live test mode, which is great, until I read the easyRescue manual this morning.

Posted by: Ben E in reply to Derek at March 3, 2011 10:53 AM | Reply

Yes, thanks Derek, Col

Posted by: Columbus at March 3, 2011 10:56 AM | Reply

I've learned from WeatherDock that besides Raymarine MFDs, at least the Garmin 700 series and Simrad AI50 also produce audible and visual alarms when they receive the AIS SART message (#14). There's even a video of a Garmin in action (go to midway point if you want to skip the intro in French):

Posted by: Ben E at March 3, 2011 12:59 PM | Reply

Be careful when testing. Don't start a rescue operation. These AIS messages are detectable from 200NM with a receiver in an aircraft (coast guard or other). They might even be detected by low orbiting satellites when they are operational.

This is also the beauty with the AIS SART. An aircraft can find you a lot faster and then forward your position to a rescue boat or any type of vessel that is close. And a boat will see you when close enough.

AIS SART test message is OK. But it is almost equally bad to test an EPIRB alarm and an AIS SART alarm.

Posted by: Marcus at March 3, 2011 4:33 PM | Reply

Understood, Marcus, and why I was pleased to learn that there is test protocol apparently built into the standards. In test mode, the beacon only transmits a few times and the "name" that should appear alongside any screen's target is "SART test". As mentioned in the entry, some AIS plotters need an update in order to issue visual and audio alarms on detection of an AIS SART, but most all should at least show the target. I'll also have VHF radios set to channel 16 when I conduct tests.

Posted by: Ben E at March 3, 2011 7:20 PM | Reply

The Weaterdock easyRescue was tested in a recent issue of the UK magazine Sailing Today. It didn't alarm on a Raymarine MFD, just showed an unidentified target.
The unit was taped to a danbuoy at what looks like 3 feet above the water for this test. I don't consider this an accurate simulation of a person in the water wearing a life vest. I wish more would be done to combine these units with life vests to hold them up as high as possible.
On a display at the Weatherdock booth on the boot 2011 fair in Germany, a huge visibility range was shown but the calculation used an antenna height of 1 meter/3 feet which can never be achieved by a single person in the water.
The Sailing Today test also said that the easyRescue's antenna blew horizontal in a stronger wind which will further reduce range. This will probably not be a problem with the model shown here.
At the Navimo (former Plastimo) booth at this fair I asked about the Kannad AIS SART and was told that Navimo, the largest marine distributor in France, doesn't carry this unit as they don't think the technology is mature enough.
This may be because of the alarming problem. Weatherdock addresses this by offering an AIS transponder easyTRX2 that has an AIS SART alarm included. An alarm signal is connected to a wire pair on the transponder. However, this wire pair is used in combination with a CPA/TCPA-Alarm also included with this unit so you are likely to be tempted to disable the CPA-Alarm with an external switch, also disabling the AIS SART alarm. However, there is also a feature in the configuration software allowing you to disable the CPA-Alarm without reverting to an external switch.

Posted by: Henning at March 4, 2011 5:56 PM | Reply

some info on AIS-SART testing on this website:

Posted by: Anonymous at March 7, 2011 9:47 AM | Reply

A clarification on AIS SART message from Jorge Arroyo:

"Note, these devices will be seen by ALL AIS station because they broadcast the same AIS MSG 1 (Position Report) as other Class A's; except their nav status = 14 = 'Reserved for future use' / 'SART ACTIVE'. In addition, they also broadcast a MSG 14 (Safety related text message) which will state either: SART ACTIVE or SART TEST. Further, their 97MMSI# distinguishes them from all other AIS stations.

What future AIS station will also be required to do is: (1) decode a msg 1 nav status = 14 as 'SART ACTIVE', (2) alarm for SART ACTIVE, (3) create their target named: 'SART ACTIVE' (nav status = 15= not defined = default, target name: SART TEST; legacy systems will probably display their MMSI), (4) ensure SART ACTIVE target(s) cue atop the target list, and, (5) stay cued for at least 18 min. (time-out window)."

Posted by: Ben E at March 10, 2011 9:39 AM | Reply

Just heard that the Volvo ocean racers are using Kannad R10 personal AIS SARTS fitted to KRU lifejackets. Info about the gear here:

Also, readers interested in these AIS SARTS should check out the entry on the Weatherdock easyAIS:

Posted by: Ben E at January 27, 2012 3:45 PM | Reply

I had the opportunity to play with one of these at a safety at sea seminar yesterday.

One of the speakers believes it will be approved by the USCG in the next week. A representative from Defender said he has 100 on order, expects to be selling them by May 1st or sooner.

Some thoughts handling this thing
(1) It is really small, which is terrific. It may still be too large however to fit inside some PFD's.
(2) It is too difficult to pull that tab out. That may however be a function of the product being handled alot.
(3) Their is an antenna that pops out, about 8 inches. Much shorter than an PLB antenna. I can see how it may be out of the water on it's own without much effort by the wearer.
(4) The integration with the PFD in the picture looks great. But what keeps the antenna out of the water? Especially as crouch straps are being strongly recommended for PFD's.

Posted by: Dan Corcoran (b393capt) at March 25, 2012 2:44 PM | Reply

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