Friday 21 September 2018

Startup designs hi-tech life jacket to help avoid tragedies like Rescue 116

Technology

Killian Dolan with his satellite-based life jacket
Killian Dolan with his satellite-based life jacket
Adrian Weckler

Adrian Weckler

A startup firm has designed a life jacket aimed at preventing tragedies experienced by emergency services, such as last year's ill-fated Rescue 116 mission.

Killian Dolan, a young engineer from Donegal, came up with the prototype as part of an initiative with the European Space Agency.

The high-tech life jacket uses satellite communications technology that is less likely to be interfered with by other sensors or electrical systems on board a rescue helicopter or marine craft.

This could result in crew members being located quicker in the event of an emergency.

A contributing factor to the Rescue 116 tragedy was the inability to locate crew members from their location beacons. "The genesis of this idea came after last year's tragedy with Rescue 116," said Dolan, a graduate from Dublin City University who has based his design lab at the university's Alpha campus in Glasnevin.

"I responded to a call from the European Space Agency to create a wearable that could transmit its location using L-band satellites as opposed to conventional technology. This standalone system has its own antenna and uses an entirely different frequency band to those normally used. So the signal would get through where others wouldn't."

The new invention comes following the first anniversary of the tragic crash that occurred near Blacksod in Co Mayo with the loss of four lives. Two of the bodies have never been recovered.

Dolan said that he is currently exploring further possibilities with the advanced life jacket, possibly with a view to production.

"This is most useful in a man-overboard situation," he said. "If we got interest in it, then we'd continue developing it. We're currently talking to some industry people."

One advantage to the system is the low amount of power it requires to operate."It sends very low amounts of data, about a quarter of a text message," said Dolan. "It can last on standby for two to three weeks and can transmit for between six and eight hours once activated."

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