Title:
Buoyant visibility device
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
A buoyant visibility device comprising an enclosure structure on its exterior, a hollow interior, and a plurality of arms arranged such that, in any position, at least one arm substantially extends upward, wherein the visibility device may be filled or pre-filled with fill materials in its interior.



Inventors:
Henrikson, Lars H. (US)
Application Number:
11/732880
Publication Date:
10/11/2007
Filing Date:
04/05/2007
Primary Class:
International Classes:
B63B22/16
View Patent Images:
Related US Applications:
20060292943Hardware-less wakeboard binding component and assembly and method of making assemblyDecember, 2006Crumrine
20040259440Recreational flotation device with integral cup holderDecember, 2004Kirk
20040147180Paddle aqua-glider used to propel floats, reach remote places and objects, survey rescue in waterJuly, 2004Gorshkov
20060276087Surfboard having a honeycomb coreDecember, 2006Conner Jr.
20090288612SUBMERSIBLE MOORING GRIDNovember, 2009Himmelstrup
20070037460Handle for a water sports tow ropeFebruary, 2007Smith
20030211789Magnetic traction deviceNovember, 2003Taylor
20080280516Marine survival systemNovember, 2008Rayles et al.
20090130932Dream Walk On the WaterMay, 2009Yesil et al.
20090258554Electrically powered balanced buoyancy and velocity of movement controllable life-preserving vest and transport systemOctober, 2009Gutierrez
20060025028Bridle device for a surfboardFebruary, 2006Chen et al.



Primary Examiner:
VASUDEVA, AJAY
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
Lars, Henrikson H. (7956 34th Ave SW, Seattle, WA, 98126, US)
Claims:
I claims:

1. A buoyant visibility device comprising at least four arms connected to each other in a central region and extending outward therefrom arranged such that, in any position, at least one arm substantially extends upward.

2. A buoyant visibility device as defined in claim 1 wherein the arms are oriented in a tetrapodal or caltrop-like orientation where the four arms are splayed substantially equidistant from one another.

3. A visibility device as defined in claims 1 wherein said enclosure consists of impermeable fabric or impermeable material suitable for holding gas under pressure.

4. A visibility device as defined in claim 1 wherein said arms are of consistent length.

5. A visibility device as defined in claim 1 wherein said device includes, aids to perception including at least one of illumination, retroflective material, signal graphics, and noise-makers.

6. A visibility device as defined in claim 1 wherein said device can be deployed by remote inflation in such a way as to self-release from a container.

7. A visibility device as defined in claim 1 wherein inflation is achieved by means of an exterior inflator.

8. A visibility device as defined in claim 1 which, in its deflated state, can be bundled in such a way as to fasten upon itself via releasable means.

9. A bundle shape or an enclosure shape as described in claim 13 wherein the resulting shape would approximate that of an American football.

10. A visibility device as defined in claim 1 wherein the device is attached to a flexible line.

11. A visibility device as defined in claim 1 wherein the device is bundled with and tethered to a personal floatation device (PFD).

12. A visibility device as defined in claim 1 in which said device attached to an article of emergency gear.

13. A visibility device as defined in claim 1 wherein activation of self-inflation mechanism is triggered by water contact.

14. A visibility device as defined in claim 1 wherein the device would be constructed of buoyant material uniformly throughout.

15. An inflatable visibility device fabricated from four three-pointed pieces of impermeable material adhered along inwardly angled edges so as to comprise an enclosing structure of tetrapodal form wherein the adhered edges are impermeable.

16. An inflatable device as defined in claim 15 wherein the edges are joined and sealed by adhesive material.

17. An inflatable device as defined in claim 15 wherein the edges are joined and sealed by means of RF welding.

18. An inflatable device as defined in claim 15 wherein the edges are joined and sealed sonic welding.

19. An inflatable device as defined in claim 15 wherein the edges are joined by mechanical means such as stitching where said seams are sealed by means of a further sealing material.

20. A buoyant visibility device with at least four arms that is constructed of panels joined in such a way as to create a fully-enclosed hollow interior and at least four outwardly projecting arms wherein at least one arm is not coplanar with the others.

Description:

CROSSREFERENCED AND RELATED APPLICATIONS

Priority claim: Provisional Patent Application No. 60/790,183. Apr. 7, 2006

FIELD OF INVENTION

This invention generally relates to a three-dimensional visibility device or marker.

BACKGROUND OF INVENTION

One of the major issues in water safety is locating the position of a person or cargo overboard in the water. When a person is overboard and floating in water, only a small part of the person's body is above the water, and even if the person overboard was wearing a bright colored life preserver, the person is very difficult to locate, especially when the surface of the water is not still. Coupled with other factors such as the boat or ship moving away from the person overboard, darkness, weather, etc., it can be extremely difficult to locate and rescue the person overboard. It is therefore important to make available and discharge a visibility device or marker close to the person or cargo overboard so that the person or cargo overboard can be readily located. A visibility device or mark not only is useful for locating a person or cargo overboard, but it can also be a buoyant onto which the person overboard can grab and hold.

Many visibility devices or markers for use in marine or water environments are known in the art. Examples of these visibility devices include man overboard poles, crew overboard markers, rescue floats and streamers, diving marker devices, emergency evacuation survival suits, life buoys, lights and strobes, floating lines, and the like. Most of these devices are limited in providing adequate versatility, visibility, and buoyancy, which can result in persons or objects being lost to sight in water environments and unrecoverable in emergency situations and rescue operations. For example, man overboard poles are generally ungainly, difficult to store and deploy, and have little excess buoyancy. Also, man overboard poles remain limited in storage capacity due to their length. For instance, man overboard poles can be stored on sailboats since they can be attached to a backstay; however, it is uncommon for man overboard poles to be stored on a powerboat due to the length of the poles. Further, due to their slenderness, man overboard poles are not very visible from a distance.

Crew overboard markers generally contain a significant amount of ballast or the like in order for the markers to remain upright. Tossing or throwing the markers can therefore be difficult and challenging due to the additional weight of the markers. Thus, crew overboard markers are of limited practical utility because they can only generally be dropped off from an area in close proximity to a boat or ship, thus the markers can be left quite a distance from the actual overboard area.

Rescue streamers that can be attached to life rafts or personal floatation devices (“PFD”) are known to be visible from a distance or air. However, since rescue streamers, during use, typically lie flat on the surface of water, they are not effective in showing points of rescue from the perspective of a boat, ship, or land.

Several types of throwable inflatable and floatable visibility devices are also known in the art. These inflatable and floatable visibility devices are generally useful in providing buoyancy to a person in the water. However, these devices are limited for use in locating a person in rough water conditions or from a distance because the devices are generally positioned at the water level. Also, these devices are typically bulky and thus are difficult to be released to the person or cargo gone overboard.

Marker devices used by SCUBA divers to mark their dive locations include flags attached to inner tubes, ballasted inflatable devices, ballasted solid buoyant flag holders, post-dive location marking devices, and the like. These devices typically comprise multiple parts and assembling the parts can be time-consuming. Also, the ballast must be carried in addition to a diver's other weights and gear. Post-dive location marking devices usually consist of inflatable tubes that are inflated by a stranded diver or a diver awaiting pick-up by a dive boat. These devices must be held or attached to a diver in order to stay erect. Further, these devices are limited in providing visibility from the air.

Many visibility devices for use on land environments are also known in the art. Examples of these visibility devices include inflatable land buoys, traffic cones, barrels, pylons, and the like. Similar to the crew overboard markers mentioned above, inflatable land buoys can be quite heavy because in order for the land buoys to remain upright, the buoys usually contain significant amount of ballast or the like. Also, land buoys generally have a large internal volume to surface ratio, thus, the period of inflation can be quite long. Further, inflatable land buoys, traffic cones, barrels, pylons, and other marking devices are limited in providing visibility and stability because they can be toppled easily.

Many types of spherical balloons and spherical visibility aids for use in emergency situations are also known in the art. The disadvantage of these spherical devices is that the amount of gas needed for inflation limits the ultimate practical size of the fully inflated object. Further, these spherical devices can not be easily grasped as buoyancy aids.

U.S. Pat. No. 3,877,096 discloses an inflatable flotation device comprising a long narrow air-tight tube covered with light reflective material. The tube is closed at one end and has valve device at the other end for manual inflation of the tube. The tube is divided into seven segments and folded at the intersections therebetween so that the tube, when inflated, forms a regular tetrahedral configuration. One tip of the tetrahedron will always project a significant distance out of the water to provide a highly visible marker which can be seen for long distances to assist in spotting a person in distress.

U.S. Pat. No. 3,800,735 discloses a traffic warning device or barrier comprising an interconnected group of hollow tubes. In one embodiment, six tubes are arranged as the edges of a tetrahedron. At each vertex, the tubes communicate with each other, so that there is a continuous passage through the hollow system. The tubes may be rigid or may be inflatable, and there is a filling valve at any suitable location. In use, at least three horizontal tubes are filled with water, dry sand, lead shot, gravel, marbles, or other suitable weighting material. The three partly vertical inclined tubes may be so filled or be filled with air, especially when the barrier is of the inflatable type.

U.S. Pat. No. 3,947,908 discloses a life-saving appliance that automatically inflates an inflatable tube after a short period of contact with water comprising a metallic receptacle containing a refrigerant in the liquid stage, a membrane normally sealing the receptacle, a manually-actuated pin for penetrating the membrane, an inflatable tube surrounding the receptacle, a conduit for connecting the interior of the receptacle to the tube, and a water-soluble retaining band for holding the tube, in deflated condition, against the exterior of the receptacle. The appliance can be thrown several feet outwardly over a body of water and shortly after contact with the water, the retaining strip disintegrates and the refrigerant passes through the membrane, which has already been punctured, to rapidly expand and fill the inflatable tube.

U.S. Pat. No. 4,573,933 discloses a pyramid-shaped floating search and rescue inflatable signal device constructed of upstanding inflatable beam members extending, from an inflatable base upwardly to an apex. The inflatable base carries an integral sea anchor depending therefrom, comprising an inflatable cross tube carrying a centrally depending inflatable anchor tube with an anchor weight positioned in the lowermost end portion thereof. The sea anchor includes a plurality of flood ports positioned in lower flat panels of flexible sheet material extending between the base and the end of the anchor tube to form a pyramidal surface enclosing the vertical anchor tube and weight. Upper flat panels of flexible sheet material extend between the upstanding inflatable beam to form a pyramidal surface. The upper panels include an upper radar reflective panel portion, a lower colored panel portion, and a translucent panel portion positioned between the upper and lower panel portions. A solar still mechanism is positioned within the enclosure formed by the pyramidal surface. Pockets are provided for survival gear on the exterior of the pyramidal surface.

U.S. Pat. No. 4,848,263 discloses a throwable, multi-sided emergency traffic warning marker. The marker body comprises a plurality of traffic-warning display panels preferably arranged in a tetrahedral configuration. The marker assembly is contoured and proportioned to insure display of one of the display panels to oncoming vehicles when the marker is thrown, dropped or otherwise placed on a roadway surface.

Regular tetrahedron and spherical inflatable buoys are in use for marking race courses and other temporary uses. These devices typically require ballast to stay upright and have a large volume to surface ratio requiring a long inflation time and resulting in a practical limit to the height of marker achievable.

The visibility devices described above remain limited in the area of versatility, visibility, and buoyancy characteristics. Thus, it is an object of the present invention to provide a visibility device to overcome the aforementioned disadvantages and problems.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a visibility device that has a plurality of arms arranged such that, in any position, at least one arm substantially extends upward. The inventive visibility device can be constructed of any sizes and is suitable for use in various bodies of water or on land. The configuration of the visibility device provides for large visible surfaces relative to its interior volume. In use, the visibility device is generally visible from any angle, allowing ease of spotting from the air, bodies of water, or land.

In one embodiment, the visibility device is provided with an enclosure structure on its exterior and comprises a hollow interior. The inventive visibility device may be filled or pre-filled with various fill materials in its interior. Alternatively, the inventive visibility device may be partially filled with various fill materials in its interior. In still another alternative, the inventive visibility device may be in a collapsed state and provided with at least one access structure for admitting various fill materials.

The fill materials may be low, medium, or high density materials. Also, the fill materials may be uniform or non-uniform. In cases where the fill materials are non-uniform, fill materials may comprise different types of fill materials or have different weight or density. Fill materials may also be provided in different locations of the visibility device's interior.

When the inventive visibility device is filled or partially filled with fill materials, the device has a generally tetrahedral configuration or profile and comprises at least four arms or apexes, at least four panels, and at least six edges. The filled or partially filled visibility device has a caltrop-like body, having a hollow interior, defined by the at least four panels. The caltrop-like body comprises a base and can also be defined by the at least four arms or apexes. The arms or apexes are arranged in such a manner that when three of the at least of four arms or apexes are in contact with a horizontal or near horizontal surface, the fourth arm or apex always points or extends substantially upward from the base of the visibility device.

The at least four arms or four apexes may be positioned equidistantly or non-equidistantly from each other. Also, the four arms may be constructed in various lengths and be substantially equal in length to one another. Alternatively, the four arms may be different in lengths to one another. The four arms or apexes of the visibility device may have the same configurations, or be in a combination of various configurations. The configuration of the arms or apexes can be uniform or non-uniform and examples of configurations of the arms or apexes may include, but are not limited to, curved, conical, frustoconical, cylindrical, columnar, pyramidal, cubical, polygonal (triangular, quadrangular, pentagonal, hexagonal, and the like), spire-like, block-like, prism-like, sickle like, and the like. The tips of the arms or apexes can be flat, curved, pointed, or rounded and can be configured symmetrically or asymmetrically. Further, the arms or apexes can be filled or partially filled with uniform or various combinations of fill materials as discussed above.

In an embodiment where the device is constructed of four panels, each of the four panels of the visibility device can be defined by at least three of the four arms or apexes and at least three of the six curved edges, the three curved edges collectively forming a generally triangular-like configuration. In one embodiment, each panel of the visibility device comprises three arms or apexes and three curved edges forming an equilateral triangle-like configuration. Each of the three curved edges can be defined by a curvature. When viewed from the perspective of one of the four panels, each of the three curved edges is arranged so that when the inventive visibility device is filled or partially filled and positioned in an upright position, a first apex points substantially directly upward, and a second apex and a third apex, which opposite each other, are in contact with a surface. The first curved edge extends from the first apex to the second apex forming a left curvature; the second curved edge extends from the second apex to the third apex forming a bottom curvature; and the third curved edge extends from the first apex to the third apex forming a right curvature.

In one embodiment, when filled or partially filled with fill materials, each panel of the visibility device projects in an outwardly manner in such a way that the visibility device is provided with outwardly and convexly projected panels. When the visibility device is filled or partially filled, the apexes of each panel also project in an outwardly manner with respect to the panel. In other words, the apexes extend in forward directions with respect to the central area of each panel when the visibility device is filled or partially filled.

In one embodiment, the panels are made of impermeable material that is adhered at the seams by means of sewing and sealing or adhered by means of heat sealing, or adhered by means of radio frequency (RF) welding, or adhered by means of adhesive material, or adhered by means of sonic welding.

The visibility device may optionally be provided with an inlet or access structure for admitting or removing fill materials. Alternatively, the visibility device may be provided with at least one inflator. Any inflators known in the art may be employed and examples of the inflators include, but are not limited to, auto self-inflators, oral inflators, pumps, and the like.

When the visibility device is in a collapsed state, the device can be compacted or folded into a package. In one embodiment, the compacted visibility device has an American football-like configuration, which can be thrown for a long distance. The collapsed visibility device can also be carried underwater by a diver, having little effect on the diver's buoyancy, and can be filled with gas either as a simple dive marker or as a hands-free locator beacon. The collapsed visibility device can also be stationed in an enclosure on a vessel or elsewhere that is designed to release the device upon activation of an inflation mechanism. The collapsed visibility device can also be stationed in such a way that it can be remotely or directly released or ejected into water whereupon a water-activated self-inflating mechanism will activate and inflate the device.

The visibility device, in its collapsed state, can be attached to emergency or safety gear such as a personal floatation device (PFD), survival suit, or other device such as a life raft to be deployed in cases where added visibility would prove beneficial.

In another embodiment, the visibility device is constructed of rigid or semi-rigid material uniformly throughout. In another embodiment, the device would be constructed of buoyant foam uniformly throughout. In yet another embodiment, a portion of the visibility device may be provided with a hollow interior and an enclosure structure on its exterior, while the other portion of the device can be constructed of rigid or semi-rigid material.

The visibility device may be combined or provided with any visibility or search aids including, but are not limited to, retroflective materials, lights, signal graphics, radar reflective material, radio transceivers, noise makers, and combinations thereof. In any embodiment, the visibility device may have attached rope, cord, line, webbing, or other flexible material that may be used to aid in deployment, retrieval, grasping, anchoring or any other purpose. This attached flexible material can be attached in any number of ways including but not limited to sewing, threading through grommets, riveting, RF welding, or gluing.

These and other aspects of the present invention will become apparent upon reference to the following detailed description and attached drawings. All references disclosed herein are hereby incorporated by reference in their entirety as if each was incorporated individually.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The present invention will be described in greater detail in the following detailed description, with reference to the accompanying drawings, wherein:

FIG. 1 shows a side perspective view of an embodiment of a visibility device of the present invention; and

FIG. 2 shows another side perspective view of an embodiment of a visibility device of the present invention.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF THE INVENTION

The present invention provides a visibility device that has a plurality of arms or apexes arranged such that, in any position, at least one arm or apex substantially extends upward. The visibility device can be constructed of any sizes and is suitable for use in various marine and land environments. In cases where the visibility device is used in water, the device is floatable and may be self or manually inflatable, and said device can be tethered to a person or any kind of anchor. In cases where the visibility device is used on land, for example, as a traffic, construction, or navigation marker, the device will always have one arm or apex in a visible vertical orientation even if it is toppled. The configuration of the visibility device provides for large visible surface areas relative to its interior volume. In use, the visibility device is generally visible from any angle, allowing ease of spotting from the air, bodies of water, or land.

The inventive visibility device may be constructed of any durable rigid, semi-rigid, or flexible material such as plastic, rubber, metal, concrete, fabric, coated fabric, foam, or other formable materials. Examples of materials suitable for constructing the device include, but are not limited to, plastic sheeting, polyvinylchloride, rubberized canvas, treated nylon, Dacron® fabric, nylon having a waterproof urethane membrane, expandable foam, open or closed cell foam, polyurethane, and the like.

In one embodiment, as shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, the visibility device 10 is provided with an enclosure structure on its exterior and comprises a hollow interior. The inventive visibility device 10 may be filled or pre-filled with various fill materials in its interior. Alternatively, the inventive visibility device 10 may be partially filled with various fill materials in its interior. In another alternative, the inventive visibility device 10 may be in a collapsed state and provided with at least one access structure for admitting various fill materials.

The fill materials may be low, medium, or high density materials. Also, the fill materials may be uniform or non-uniform. In cases where the fill materials are non-uniform, fill materials may comprise different types of fill materials or have different weight or density. Fill materials may also be provided in different locations of the visibility device's interior. For example, the visibility device 10 may be provided with heavier fill materials towards the bottom of the device 10 and lighter fill materials towards the top of the device 10. Examples of fill materials include, but are not limited to, gas, liquid, oil, sand, gravel, expandable foam, open/closed cell foam, ballast, marbles, lead shots, and combinations thereof.

The body of the visibility device 10 may be manufactured as transparent or in any color. For purposes of providing high visibility, colors such as yellow, lime green, international orange or bright red are preferred. The body may also be provided with different markers or be constructed from various reflective materials.

As shown in FIG. 1, the visibility device 10 may be provided with seams 20 along its edges 30, 40, and 50. The seams 20 may be sewn, radio frequency (RF) sealed, heat sealed, RF-welded, or connected in any way that allows the device 10 to retain sufficient internal pressure to retain its configuration.

When the visibility device 10 is filled or partially filled with fill materials, the visibility device 10 has a generally tetrahedral or tetrapod configuration or profile and comprises at least four panels (only panel 60 is visible in FIG. 1), at least six curved edges (only edges 30, 40, and 50 are visible in FIG. 1), and at least four arms or apexes 70, 80, 90, and 100 (shown in FIG. 2). The filled or partially filled visibility device 10 is provided with a caltrop-like central body 25, having a hollow interior, defined by the at least four panels 60. The caltrop-like central body comprises a base and can also be defined by the at least four arms or apexes 70, 80, 90, and 100. The arms or apexes 70, 80, 90, and 100 are arranged in such a manner that when three of the at least of four arms or apexes 80, 90, and 100 are in contact with a surface, the fourth arm or apex 70 always points substantially upward from the base of the device 10.

The configuration of the visibility device 10 provides for large visible surface areas relative to its internal volume. In the embodiment shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, the four panels 60 of the visibility device 10 are curvely sealed together in such a way that the internal volume of the device 10, when filled or partially filled, is less than it would have been in the case where the seams 20 were sealed in a straight line. In other words, the device 10 has a smaller internal volume than it would have been in the case where the panels 60 were joined at their outmost edges 30, 40, and 50 to form an exact tetrahedron. In general, in this embodiment, for every one (1) square centimeter (cm2) of surface area, the device 10 contains about 7 to 8 cubic centimeters (cm3) of internal volume. In one exemplary embodiment, for every one (1) square centimeter (cm2) of surface area, the device 10 contains about 7.8 cubic centimeters (cm3) of internal volume.

The at least four arms or four apexes 70, 80, 90, and 100 may be positioned equidistantly or non-equidistantly from each other. Also, the four arms 70, 80, 90, and 100 may be constructed in various lengths and be substantially equal in length to one another. Alternatively, the four arms 70, 80, 90, and 100 may be different in lengths to one another. The four arms or apexes 70, 80, 90, and 100 of the visibility device 10 may have the same configurations, or be in a combination of various configurations. The configurations of the arms or apexes 70, 80, 90, and 100 can be uniform or non-uniform and examples of configurations of the arms or apexes 70, 80, 90, and 100 may include, but are not limited to, curved, conical, frustoconical, cylindrical, columnar, pyramidal, cubical, polygonal (triangular, quadrangular, pentagonal, hexagonal, and the like), spire-like, block-like, prism-like, sickle like and the like. The tips of the arms or apexes 70, 80, 90, and 100 can be flat, curved, pointed, or rounded and can be configured symmetrically or asymmetrically. In the case where the arm or apex 70, 80, 90, and 100 is provided with a pointed tip, the angle between the pointed tip measures less than or equal to 60°. Further, the arms or apexes 70, 80, 90, and 100 can be filled or partially filled with uniform or various combinations of fill materials as discussed above.

In the embodiment of the inventive visibility device 10 shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, the at least four arms or apexes 70, 80, 90, and 100 of the central body 25 are curved and provided with symmetrically pointed tips, and the angle between each pointed tip measures about 10°. The arms 70, 80, 90, and 100 extend outward in four different directions and are substantially equally spaced from a center 35 of the central body 25. In this embodiment, the four apexes 70, 80, 90, and 100 are positioned substantially equidistantly from each other in a tetrahedral or tetrapodal configuration and are substantially equal in length to one another. Also, the at least four apexes are separated by about 120° with respect to each other.

As shown in FIG. 1, each of the four panels 60 of the visibility device 10 can be defined by at least three of the four arms 70, 80, and 90 and at least three of the six curved edges 30, 40, and 50. The three curved edges 30, 40, and 50 collectively form a generally triangular-like configuration. In one embodiment, panel 60 of the visibility device 10 comprises three arms 70, 80, and 90 and three curved edges 30, 40, and 50 forming an equilateral triangle-like configuration. Each of the three curved edges 30, 40, and 50 can be defined by a curvature. When viewed from the perspective of panel 60, each of the three curved edges 30, 40, and 50 is arranged so that when the inventive visibility device 10 is filled or partially filled and positioned in an upright position, a first apex 70 points substantially directly upward, and a second apex 80 and a third apex 90, which opposite each other, are in contact with a surface. As shown in FIG. 1, the first curved edge 30 extends from the first apex 70 to the second apex 80 forming a left curvature; the second curved edge 40 extends from the second apex 80 to the third apex 90 forming a bottom curvature; and the third curved edge 50 extends from the first apex 70 to the third apex 90 forming a right curvature. For example, in the left curvature, the first curved edge 30 begins at the first apex 70 and curves inwardedly until it reaches a central point 75 of the first curved edge 30, where the first curved edge 30 begins to curve outwardly until the first curved edge 30 reaches the second apex 80. Similarly, in the bottom curvature, the second curved edge 40 begins at the second apex 80 and curves inwardedly until it reaches a central point 45 of the second curved edge 40, where the second curved edge 40 begins to curve outwardly until the second curved edge 40 reaches at the third apex 90. Likewise, in the right curvature, the third curved edge 50 begins at the first apex 70 and curves inwardedly until it reaches a central point 55 of the third curved edge 50, where the third curved edge 50 begins to curve outwardly until the third curved edge 50 reaches at the third apex 90.

When device 10 is filled or partially filled with fill material(s), each panel 60 projects in an outwardly manner. As shown in FIGS. 1 and 2, the visibility device 10 is provided with outwardly and convexly projected panels 60. As shown in FIG. 2, when the visibility device 10 is filled or partially filled with fill material(s), arms 70, 80, and 90 also project in an outwardly manner with respect to panel 60. In other words, arms 70, 80, and 90 extend in forward directions with respect to the central area of panel 60 when visibility device 10 is filled or partially filled with fill material(s).

In another embodiment, the visibility device 10 may be provided with an accessing structure or inlet (not shown in the figures) for admitting, adding, inserting, exchanging, transferring, decanting, removing, or emptying device 10 with fill material(s). Alternatively, the visibility device 10 may be provided with at least one inflator 150. Any inflators known in the art may be employed and examples of the inflators include, but are not limited to, auto self-inflators such as CO2 cartridges, auto/manual inflators, oral inflators, and combinations thereof. An auto-inflator causes inflation after the visibility device 10 comes in contact with water, while an oral inflator is useful in cases where the auto-inflator, does not function properly or in case the visibility device 10 develops a leak. In yet another embodiment, the inventive visibility device 10 may be filled with rigid or semi-rigid foam in place of gas or liquid.

The central body 25, the apexes 70, 80, 90, and 100, or the seams 20 of the inventive visibility device 10 may further be provided or combined with additional visibility or safety devices and materials, such as emergency survival suits, personal buoyancy devices, SOLAS or other retroflective patches, flashing or steady emergency lights, grommets, rings, holes, or eyelets for attachment of grab-lines or tethers, which in turn may be attached to a drogue sea anchor. To improve the device's ability to reflect radar, the exterior or interior of the inventive visibility device 10 may also be provided with RADAR reflective substances, such as aluminum coating or Mylar®.

The visibility device 10 may further be provided with ballast materials, or the like, either internally or externally of the device 10 to serve as additional weight, which may be advantageous for use as a highway marker, a construction site marker, a land race-course marker, other land-based marker, or other purpose. Similarly, the device 10 may be constructed in a way where it can be anchored to the ground or other surface with pins, screws, or other fastening means.

The visibility device 10 may also be provided with pouches, pockets, and the like in or attached to its body 25 in order to facilitate the inclusion of emergency supplies such as noise makers, smoke signals, flares, emergency radio beacons, other radio equipment, and the like. In still another embodiment, the visibility device 10 may be provided with a lighting mechanism or mechanisms within the device 10 or within the optional pouch or pockets of the device 10.

When the visibility device 10 is in its collapsed state, device 10 can be compacted or folded into a package, such as a soft, semi-rigid, or rigid container. In one embodiment, the collapsed visibility device 10 can be compacted into a package having an American football-like configuration. The football shaped device package may be mounted on a bracket of a boat or ship where it can be easily accessible. In another embodiment, the collapsed visibility device in the device package may be provided with cord(s) or handle(s) on one or more end(s) of the device package. The device package may further be provided with an inflatable horseshoe personal floatation device (“PFD”) buoy.

In use, the football-shaped visibility device package may easily be thrown, tossed, released, or discharged like an American football or, alternatively, swung by a cord in order to cast the device package as close to a person or cargo overboard in the water as possible. In one embodiment, after the visibility device package comes in contact with water, the auto-inflator actuates and fills the visibility device with CO2, deploying the visibility device 10 to provide a stable and relatively stationary marker, as well as a personal flotation device. After use, the visibility device 10 may be deflated, dried, collapsed, fitted with a charged gas cartridge and repacked into the device package container for repeated use. The device package container that houses the collapsed visibility device may be constructed of any cloth fabric that is designed to open or undo as the visibility device fills, either by tearing at a predetermined point on the package container or by the release of hook-and-loop closures or other suitable means. Alternatively, the visibility device can also be housed in a soft or rigid package container that is designed to be dropped off the side or back of a boat by activating a release mechanism.

The collapsed visibility device can also be carried underwater by a diver or snorkeler, having little effect on the diver's buoyancy, and can be inflated either as a simple dive marker, diver below flag, or as a hands-free locator beacon to aid in spotting divers on the water surface.

In another embodiment, the visibility device is constructed of rigid or semi-rigid material uniformly throughout and has a plurality of arms arranged such that, in any position, at least one arm substantially extends upward. In other words, this embodiment of the visibility device is not provided with a hollow interior to receive fillable materials as described above. Examples of rigid or semi-rigid uniform material include, but are not limited to, foam, expandable foam, open or closed cell foam, rubber, plastic, polyurethane, and the like.

In yet another embodiment, a portion of the visibility device may be provided with a hollow interior and an enclosure structure on its exterior, while the other portion of the device is constructed of rigid or semi-rigid material. For example, the top portion of the visibility device may be provided with a hollow interior enclosed by an enclosure structure on its exterior, wherein the hollow interior may be filled with various fillable materials as described above, while the base or the lower portion of the device is constructed of a rigid material and the base is not provided with a hollow interior space to receive fillable materials.

While certain embodiments of the present invention have been described, it will be understood that various changes could be made in the above constructions without departing from the scope of the invention. It is intended that all matter contained in the above description or shown in the accompanying drawings shall be interpreted as illustrative and not in a limiting sense.

CONCLUSION, RAMIFICATIONS, AND SCOPE

Accordingly, the reader will see that, the invented visibility device provides a highly visible, stable and versatile function.

While my above description contains many specificities, these should not be construed as limitations on the scope of the invention, but rather an explication of one embodiment thereof. Many variations are possible. For example, the inflated portion of the device may be minimized to the point of being four tubes projecting from a single central hub; in this example it might or might not be deemed appropriate to connect the ends of the tubes with cords, lines, or the like to hold them in the appropriate aspect to one another. Similarly this configuration can be achieved through the use of two curved, angular, or kinked chambers joined near their centers in such a way at to allow the four ends to splay in a caltrop-like manner. In another embodiment, the invented device might have sickle like curved arm or arms that would be useful when in use as a buoyancy aid. Similarly, the invented device can be used for purposes not named above, including game markers or as play toys.





 
Previous Patent: WATERCRAFT WITH ENGINE HOUSING

Next Patent: AQUATIC GEAR