The industrial safety and security experts over at BriarTek Incorporated got the green light (and $19 million) to test a Man Overboard Indicator, or MOBI, on 105 US Navy vessels. The Virginia-based firm’s MOBI, known as the ORCA (for Overboard Recovery Communications Apparatus and not because it’s a killer whale), does more than just alert a ship’s crew of a sailor in the water; it keeps a unique ID for each sailor so rescuers will know who they’re looking for, the downed seaman’s position, and even how many people are in the water in an event where multiple sailors are cast overboard.
The crux of the system is its communication between a water-activated beacon worn by a vessel’s personnel and a receiver on the bridge that would alert the command crew – rather than relying on word to travel through the ship (which can take a while, on a military ship that’s several hundred feet long). Then the man overboard is located using a radio-based direction finder. Just in case a crewman accidentally wears the ORCA during a shower, an “all clear” can be sent by the user if his beacon is falsely set off.