SAR vessel to drop from airplanes

A 299

   Image Credit: International Submarine Eingieering Ltd.

The Canadian Department of National Defence, in coopera-tion with the National Search and Rescue Secretariat, has developed a portable, remote vessel that can be dropped from the cargo bay of a CC-130. SARPAL, an acronym for Search and Rescue Portable Air Launchable, is a rigid-inflatable hull, a modified Zodiac Hurricane. The vessel's diesel engine can be remotely guided to people in the water using a combination of GPS and real-time video, both color and infrared who then assume control. An interior camera provides rescue officials a chance to monitor the condition of survivors.

The vessel, two of which have been built for service by Canadian search and rescue services, addresses the old problem for mariners who are far enough offshore to be out of helicopter range but may require evacuation from a vessel in distress. Test drops were performed throughout the spring and summer of 2001 from a C-130, traveling at 140 knots, at an altitude of 1,300 feet. A Unicross parachute was used for the 2,300-lb load to slow descent to approximately 32 feet per second. The parachute is released by a pyrotechnic charge activated by immersion in water. Once the chute is released, the so-called weatherhood is activated, which covers the vessel. Remote-control tests have been successfully carried out from operators in Cessna aircraft and from surface vessels, according to the project's designers, International Submarine Engineering Ltd., of Port Coquitlam, British Columbia. The vessel may eventually be operated from land with use of the Globalstar satellite communications system. So far, the vessel has proved seaworthy in sea states up to Force 5. The project, now in its proof of concept stage, could see actual service by 2003.

By Ocean Navigator