RCMSAR and facilitating marine rescue from the cloud

8 Responses

  1. Charles says:

    As a member of the USCG Auxiliary I find what you are doing a great idea.
    With your permission I’d like to forward this article up the ladder and see if our Division & Flotilla would be able to use such assistance.

  2. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    I really appreciate Adam’s search for a fast, efficient way to push critical Lat/Long positions to SAR vessels. But this also seems like a good place to suggest that SAR organizations use more than Lat/Long, at least when trying to get the public involved.
    Of course I’m really talking about the U.S. Coast Guard, but maybe it happens in Canada or other places as well.
    Here’s a situation I remember well. I was underway near Rockport when the Rockland USCG station came up on VHF 16 about a reported man overboard at a certain Lat/Long. Just about everyone hearing that broadcast had hundreds of local geographic references in their heads, but the repeated broadcast never added anything like “1 mile East of Owl’s Head Light” or similar.
    I should probably be better than most at finding a Lat/Long position on a chart plotter or inputting one as a waypoint, but actually I rarely do either and I’m not quick at it. Meanwhile, one of the more common, and terrible, accidents in Maine waters is when a solo lobsterman gets dragged overboard as he or she is setting a trap. I think it’s often possible for a nearby boat to help, but the water is cold and the lobsterman’s own boat is usually moving away.

  3. Adam Hyde says:

    I agree that it is best practice for the public or Coast Guard Radio (CGR) to use both lat / longs and a general descriptive location. In the context of direct CGR to SAR vessel communication, this is usually done. It should also be done by anyone using a VHF radio where possible.
    The reality is that it is easier to hear and immediately process a descriptive location (but it assumes you are intimately familiar with local place names which may or may not be charted). What I’m hoping for is just to make the lat / long transmission more automated for SAR.

  4. Dan Corcoran (b393capt) says:

    Adam, Great Writing, Thanks!

  5. Sparky says:

    Perfect example of new ideas enabled by an open marine interface standard.

  6. derek says:

    There must be a mechanism to transmit and receive this information using the existing DSC and/or AIS equipment already on board, somehow??? Surely??

  7. Ben Ellison Ben Ellison says:

    Good question, Derek, and I’ll take a crack as Adam is likely still asleep 😉
    Yes, DSC and AIS are both able to push Lat/Long positions to a other vessels, but, no, neither includes a mechanism that SAR authorities could use to distribute the position of a vessel in distress or another marine accident to their floating assets and/or the general public, to my knowledge.
    I think that the closest thing in the AIS system is the ability of AIS authorities to broadcast virtual Aids to Navigations, even temporary ones if, say, a ship sinks in a channel.
    So I think the technology is in place to do something like Adam envisions, but just the addition of a virtual SAR icon could take many years to work through the standards and regulatory process (not to mention the politics of who does what to fire one off). Then again, it’s that same methodical process that has made AIS a reliable global safety and tracking tool.
    I think the story is similar for DSC. Theoretically at least, your DSC radio should be able to push its position to any one DSC radio in range, some or all of them. (“Theoretically” because I’m not confident that every set has it, or that a normal human can figure out how to enable, or if it will always work across brands. Sorry!)
    But this DSC feature very purposefully can only send your position, not a waypoint-like position that some idiot might misuse for some sort of false distress call. And again change could take many years.
    I trust that Adam or other readers will catch any mistakes I just made. Please.

  8. Adam Hyde says:

    I’ll preface this by saying I don’t profess to be an expert at the intricacies of DSC and AIS technologies. In the SAR context the communication needs to be more private and direct to a specific vessel. If standard AIS messages were used they wouldn’t be private.
    A DSC message can be directed to a specific MMSI number with location showing on an MFD, but it is generally used ship to ship not shore to ship. Also it is one location at a time and it was really not intended to be used this way. Sending waypoints or even a search route is the best way IMHO, and it needs to be cued to keep retrying in case the rescue boat is off line. A web standards based and easy to work with protocol like Signal K is really ideal for this. Though “proof will be in the pudding” as they say. I hope to try it and see how it works out. At the end of the day it is more about accomplishing the goal than exactly how it is technically done.

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