Title:
Automatic Integrated Distress Device
Kind Code:
A1


Abstract:
The present invention is directed to a distress flare launcher that can manually or automatically fire pyrotechnic signal flares when a mariner is in distress. During an emergency, the device may be activated automatically by hydrostatic release when the device is inverted or falls into the water, activating a mercury switch with a timing mechanism to fire flares to signal for help.



Inventors:
Borlase, George A. (Kensington, MD, US)
Application Number:
11/734330
Publication Date:
10/18/2007
Filing Date:
04/12/2007
Assignee:
THE JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY (Baltimore, MD, US)
Primary Class:
Other Classes:
102/342
International Classes:
F41C27/06
View Patent Images:
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Primary Examiner:
CHAMBERS, TROY
Attorney, Agent or Firm:
THE JOHNS HOPKINS UNIVERSITY APPLIED PHYSICS LAB. (LAUREL, MD, US)
Claims:
What is claimed is:

1. A distress device comprising: a replaceable flare; firing means for said flare; a hydrostatic release means to activate the device when said flares are positioned skyward; a power source means for operating said device.

2. The distress device of claim 1, wherein said device further comprises: a waterproof encasement for said flares and said firing means and said power source means; illumination means to signal for help at sea; wherein said flare contains a firing mechanism to activate said flare; an activation means via a mercury switch to begin illumination means and timed firing of flares.

3. The distress device of claim 1, wherein said device further comprises: a switch to activate the device on various modes including a test mode, an off mode, a manual mode and a manual fire mode.

4. The distress device of claim 1, wherein said device further comprises: said encasement comprises a top lid and a bottom lid; said top lip comprises a replacement means for flares and a bottom replacement means for the power source.

5. The distress device of claim 3, wherein said device further comprises: said activation means further comprises voice activation.

6. The distress device of claim 1, wherein said device further comprises: a satellite or wireless communication system to summon help.

7. A method of distress signaling, comprising the steps of: hydrostatic or manual release of a distress device from a vessel; turning a distress device upwards to fire flares.

8. The method of claim 7, whereby said distress device is activated by a solenoid mercury switch; firing flares in timed intervals.

9. The method of claim 8, whereby said timing is controlled by a switch which can be set to various firing modes.

10. The method of claim 9 whereby one such mode is test mode wherein a strobe light is activated.

11. The method of claim 9 whereby one such mode is off.

12. The method of claim 9 whereby one such mode is automatic.

13. The method of claim 9 whereby one such mode is manual.

Description:

CROSS-REFERENCE TO RELATED APPLICATIONS

This application claims the benefit of prior filed, co-pending U.S. application No. 60/791,347, entitled “Automatic Distress Flare Launcher,” filed on Apr. 12, 2006, the entirety of which is hereby incorporated by reference.

BACKGROUND OF THE INVENTION

1. Field of the Invention

The present invention relates to an emergency flare launcher. More specifically, it relates to a distress device which can manually or automatically fire pyrotechnic signal flares when it is inverted or falls into the water.

2. Description of the Related Art

The use of flares and other emergency equipment provide mariners a means of summoning rescue during an emergency at sea. While present technology permits distress signaling, it requires human intervention.

Distress signal devices exist; however, they are disadvantaged, such as: Greenleaf in U.S. Pat. No. 4,266,357 shows a flare launcher, but is designed to be manually used by an operator and is not an effective safety device should emergency circumstances render a mariner incapable of accessing or operating said launcher.

In order to overcome this and other related problems, what is needed is an emergency flare launcher which permits manual or automatic discharge of flares in order to signal for help, thus solving the problems associated with conventional devices.

SUMMARY OF THE INVENTION

The present invention is directed to a distress flare launcher capable of operating manually or automatically during an accident at sea. The invention uses a mercury switch to initiate the flare launcher. The encasement permits the circuitry to remain dry during exigent circumstances and a timer which may also be manually controlled, fires the flares to signal for help.

It is one object of the invention disclosed herein to provide a new and improved automatic flare launcher which activates using a mercury switch to increase the likelihood of signaling locally in the event of maritime distress.

It is another object of the invention disclosed herein to provide a new and improved flare launcher which has a timing mechanism to fire flares in delayed intervals to maximize the opportunity of signaling and attracting help and rescue.

It is an advantage of the invention disclosed herein to provide a new and improved flare launcher which includes a strobe light, sound, and voice activation which allows greater opportunity of signaling for help and rescue.

These and other objects and advantages of the present invention will be fully apparent from the following description, when taken in connection with the annexed drawings.

BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS

The teachings of the present invention can be readily understood by considering the following detailed description in conjunction with the accompanying drawings, in which:

FIG. 1 is a cross-sectional view of an example of an integrated distress device according to the principles of the present application.

FIG. 2 is an outer view example of an integrated distress device according to the principles of the present application.

FIG. 3 is an example of the top view of an integrated distress device according to the principles of the present application.

FIG. 4 is another example of a cross-sectional view of an integrated distress device according to the principles of the present application.

DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF EXEMPLARY EMBODIMENTS

Referring now to the drawings in greater detail, FIG. 1 shows a cross-sectional view of one embodiment according to the principles of the present invention.

The flares and circuitry are housed in a water tolerant enclosure 1. A thin, waterproof membrane may be placed over the flare openings on the top to aid in waterproofing the device. An epoxy may be used to prevent water from entering the device. A removable watertight top 2 which has openings for the signal flares' 16 exit and reload may also exists to effect repairs to any interior part of the enclosure 1. The flares 16 are held in place for stabilization to prevent slipping and turning by a holder 3, a rod 7 and a flare stabilizer 14, while the mechanism for firing can be supported at the bottom 4 and side 8. The flare holder 3 aids not only in stabilization of the flares but also may serve as a boundary to prevent any water entry into the motor assembly 12. The rod 7, connects the top 2 to the flare holder 3 and serves as a means to allow easy assembly removal. The rod 7 is also held in place by a self-locking nut 17 to keep the flare holder 3 attached to the top 2. The bottom 4 serves as a removable plate to permit access to both the motor assembly 12 and flares 16 and creates an easy manner in which to attach them together for the operation of the device. The side 8 may be a bracket which holds the circuit board 9 in place and is attached to a stabilizer plate bottom 4. There may further be a spacer 13 to keep the circuit board 9 off the side 8.

The device may also have a watertight battery compartment 5 wherein the battery 15 may be accessed and replaced. The battery cap 6 may be opened to effect battery replacement. In one embodiment, the device also houses the flare firing mechanism wherein a motor 12 is activated by the firing mechanism, turning a bar attached to the motor, pulling a cord which activates the flare and fires the distress signal.

As an illustrative example, the device may also have a strobe light with a clear plastic dome 10 to protect it on the top 2. A circuit board 11 to control and operate said strobe light may be attached below it. The device may also have a sound mechanism The device may also have an emergency positioning indicator radio beacon (EPIRB) and a GPS receiver.

The device may also have a switch to operate. The switch will have at least five positions. These positions may include test, off, automatic, manual and fire. The test mode may be used to determine whether the battery is sufficiently charged, and flashes the strobe light. The off mode will prevent the circuits from being energized. Automatic mode will fire flares off automatically when the ADFL is turned right side up (flares facing up), with the strobe light flashing and a warning tone sounding from the speaker. This mode also will operate a timing mechanism to automatically fire flares at different time intervals. Manual mode allows flares to be fired off on-demand with the strobe light flashing by moving the switch to fire. The switch may be locked in either off, automatic or manual mode. The device may also incorporate a spring-loading fire position so that when a flare is fired, the switch cannot remain in the fire position, but returns automatically to the manual position. The device will also remember when all the flares have been fired and will not attempt to continue to fire.

In order to use the present invention, the device may be stored upside down (flares facing down) on a vessel bracket in the on position. When an emergency occurs, the device may either float free from the bracket after being set free by hydrostatic release, or it is placed in the water by a user. Once in the water, the device turns right side up, via buoyancy or other mechanical means, and a mercury switch activates the circuit. With the mercury switch, the device may not activate if not turned right side up. If right-side up, the strobe light begins pulsing, and a mechanical firing pin will fire one pyrotechnic distress flare. The first flare fires after a short delay, and a second flare fires very soon thereafter. The flares are fired at timed intervals until all flares are exhausted. This process may occur manually or automatically. It may also be activated by voice command.

Each flare may be stored in a separate launch tube. The firing pins may be located below each flare and fired using a spring. A solenoid attached to each firing pin may determine the position of the firing pin. When flares are in the launch tube, the firing pins are in the armed position, with tension on the spring. When a flare is launched, the solenoid releases the firing pin, which swings into the bottom of the flare, igniting the flare and sending it through the seal at the top of the Launcher. The circuit board 9 houses the timing mechanisms for the firing pin solenoids.

FIGS. 2-4 demonstrate additional views and features in one embodiment of the present invention.

It should be apparent to those skilled in the art that the present invention may be embodied in many other specific forms without departing from the spirit or scope of the invention. Therefore, the present examples and embodiments are to be considered as illustrative and not restrictive, and the invention is not to be limited to the details given herein, but may be modified within the scope of the appended claims.