Login| Sign Up| Help| Contact|

Patent Searching and Data


Title:
INFLATABLE DISTRESS SIGNAL
Document Type and Number:
WIPO Patent Application WO/2000/015494
Kind Code:
A1
Abstract:
An inflatable distress signal which can be easily worn by a person and readily deployed when necessary. The signal includes a triangular body portion (2). A pocket (4) extends around the perimeter of the body portion (2). The device is attached to a bag which is worn around the waist of the person. When required for use, the bag is opened and a small cylinder (8) of compressed gas attached to the pocket (4) is activated to fill the pocket (4) with gas from the cylinder (8) to deploy the signal.

More Like This:
Inventors:
Vaughan, Christopher Patrick (2 Maina Street Woree, QLD 4868, AU)
Application Number:
PCT/AU1999/000777
Publication Date:
March 23, 2000
Filing Date:
September 16, 1999
Export Citation:
Click for automatic bibliography generation   Help
Assignee:
B-POINT INNOVATION PTY. LTD. (33A Newark Street Buttaba, NSW 2283, AU)
Vaughan, Christopher Patrick (2 Maina Street Woree, QLD 4868, AU)
International Classes:
B63C9/20; G08B5/00; (IPC1-7): B63C9/20; B63C9/00; A62B37/00; G08B5/00
Foreign References:
US4725252A1988-02-16
US5245943A1993-09-21
US5344351A1994-09-06
US5199374A1993-04-06
US3031693A1962-05-01
Download PDF:
Claims:
CLAIMS
1. A distress signal device, said device including: a substantially flexible body portion; a pocket at or near the perimeter of said body portion, said pocket capable of being inflated; and means to inflate said pocket as required; wherein, upon inflation of said pocket, said signal device is deployed to a substantially planar configuration.
2. A device as defined in Claim 1, wherein said body portion is triangular in shape.
3. A device as defined in Claim 1 or Claim 2, wherein said body portion is manufactured from a lightweight material.
4. A device as defined in Claim 3, wherein said lightweight material is a plastic material.
5. A device as defined in any one of Claims 1 to 4, wherein said body portion has the international distress signal centrally disposed thereon.
6. A device as defined in any one of Claims 1 to 5, wherein said pocket is gastight and formed integral with said body portion.
7. A device as defined in any one of Claims 1 to 6, wherein said means to inflate said pocket is a cylinder containing compressed gas which, when activated, automatically inflates said pocket.
8. A device as defined in any one of Claims 1 to 7, wherein said device further includes a means to manually inflate said pocket.
9. A device as defined in any one of Claims 1 to 8, wherein said device further includes means to deflate said pocket.
10. A device as defined in Claim 9, wherein said means to deflate said pocket is a large bore one way valve.
11. A device as defined in any one of Claims 1 to 10, wherein said device, when in a collapsed configuration, is releasably contained in a bag worn by a user of said device.
12. A device as defined in Claim 11, wherein said bag is constructed so that a single release action by a wearer of said bag releases said device from said bag.
Description:
TITLE: INFLATABLE DISTRESS SIGNAL THIS INVENTION relates to a distress signal. In particular, it is directed to an inflatable distress signal that can easily be carried on a person and readily deployed when necessary. Although this invention finds particular use for a person floating in a body of water, the invention is not so limited and can equally be deployed on land.

Water safety procedures usually require appropriate facilities to be nearby for use by persons should they find themselves in the water because of an accident or other unforseen circumstances. These facilities include life buoys near to hand or the wearing of life jackets or the like. While these facilities certainly are a proven safety factor, once a person is floating in the water, they are difficult to locate by a search party as only a small part of the body is above the waterline, especially in high seas.

To improve the likelihood of locating a person floating in such conditions, a number of prior art devices exist. One such device is an electronic beacon, which is either a component of a life buoy or is a separate unit, which floats and emits a signal which can be tracked. The disadvantage of such a beacon, however, is that it is relatively large and complex in manufacture. Other devices include highly coloured personal flotation jackets. While the choice of colour may enhance the visibility of the wearer, they remain somewhat cumbersome to wear and still do not solve the problem of only having part of the body of the user exposed above the waterline.

A prior art device which prima facie may not suffer these latter problems is that described in US 4,725,252 where a streamer is attached to an inflatable device stored in a waist belt, the belt having a multitude of inflatable chambers. When the chamber which contains the streamer member is inflated, the streamer

floats on the surface of water. This type of device, however, has a somewhat complicated arrangement of the multitude of inflatable compartments. Further, the streamer is only attached to the belt along one edge and thus only has its prime buoyancy at that one edge, the remaining three sides are not tethered and, although the streamer includes a plurality of inflatable chambers positioned at intervals therealong, in rough water, this additional buoyancy is insufficient to prevent the tendency of the streamer to be swamped by the water crashing over it and thus significantly reducing its visibility to a search party.

Similarly, another prior art device which prima facie may eliminate these latter problems is that described in US 3,877,096 where, yet again, a somewhat complicated segmented inflatable tube is present in a device worn on a person which when deployed, inflates to a tetrahedral shape, the peak of the tetrahedron projecting a distance above the surface of the water. Although the tubular material is described as visually retro-reflective, the surface area of each tube visible to a search party is minimal and the only means disclosed to further enhance the visibility of the device is to affix a pennant to the apex of the tetrahedron. Nevertheless, despite this improvement, in high seas, distance above the water surface is not likely to increase visibility significantly.

There thus remains a need for a personal safety device which can be easily carried by a person when not in use and readily deployed when required to provide a distress signal visible over a wider area than the prior art devices.

It is a general object of the present invention to overcome, or at least ameliorate, one or more of the above problems.

According to the present invention, there is provided a distress signal device, said device including: a substantially flexible body portion; a pocket at or near the perimeter of said body portion, said pocket capable of being inflated; and means to inflate said pocket as required; wherein, upon inflation of said pocket, said signal device is deployed to a substantially planar configuration.

Preferably, said body portion is triangular in shape.

Preferably, said body portion is manufactured from a lightweight material.

Preferably, said lightweight material is a plastic material such as polyvinyl chloride (PVC).

Preferably, said plastic material is a fluorescent orange colour.

Preferably, said body portion has the international distress signal centrally disposed on said material.

Preferably, said pocket is gas-tight and formed integral with said body portion.

Preferably, said means to inflate said pocket is a cylinder containing compressed gas which, when activated, automatically inflates said pocket.

Preferably, said device further includes a means to manually inflate said pocket.

Preferably, said device further includes means to deflate said pocket.

Preferably, said means to deflate said pocket is a large bore one way valve.

Preferably, said device is constructed to be able to float on the surface of a body of water when said device is deployed.

Preferably, said device, when in a collapsed configuration, is releasably contained in a bag worn by a user of said device.

Preferably, said bag is constructed so that a single release action by a wearer of said bag releases said device from said bag.

The invention will now be described with reference to a preferred embodiment shown in the accompanying drawings, in which: FIG. 1 is a schematic illustration of a device constructed according to the present invention; FIG. 2a is a blank for a bag and attachments for use to contain the device of FIG. 1; FIG. 2b is the bag constructed from the blank of FIG. 2a in an open position; and FIG. 3 is the bag of FIG. 2b containing the device of FIG. 1.

Referring first to FIG. 1, the device (1) of the invention comprises a triangular body portion (2). The body portion (2) is manufactured from PVC and is fluorescent orange in colour. A black international distress signal (3) is disposed essentially centrally on the body portion (2). The perimeter edge of the body portion (2) is folded over a short distance and heat or otherwise sealed to form a pocket (4) extending around the perimeter of the body portion (2). Attached to the pocket (4) is an inflation valve (6), similar to the valve found on the tyre of a bicycle, which can be used, if necessary, to inflate the pocket (4). The pocket (4) also includes a large bore one way valve (7) which can be used, if required, to deflate the pocket (4). A small cylinder (8) of compressed gas, typically carbon dioxide, is also attached to the pocket (4) with its exit nozzle (9) directed into the pocket (4). On activation of the cylinder (8), the pocket (4) can be filled with gas from the cylinder (8). At one apex of the body portion (2) is attached a strap (10) which terminates in one half (11) of a buckle.

As illustrated in FIGS. 2a & 2b, the half (11) of the buckle can be coupled to its complementary half (12) which, in turn, is connected to a strap (13) which is secured to a bag formed from the blank (14). The bag blank (14) includes side panels (15a, b); a back panel (16); a top panel (17); a first front panel (18a) which overlaps with a second front panel (18b), the two front panels being removable secured together by the use of"Velcro"strips (1 9a, b) on opposing faces; and an ajustable waist belt (20). When folded and stitched, the bag assumes the configuration illustrated in FIG. 2b.

Once the bag has been stitched together, the device (1) is folded, placed on top of the cylinder (8), and both units are housed in the bag with the buckle half (11) connected to its mate (12). The front panels (18a, b) are secured together and a user can wear the bag around the waist until required for use.

In use, by separating the front panels (18a, b), the device is released from the confines of the bag, activating the release of the compressed gas from the cylinder (8) inflates the pocket (4) and the device is deployed. If, for whatever reason, the pocket (4) cannot be filled from gas from the cylinder (8), the manual valve (6) can be used to inflate the pocket (4). The device remains tethered to the user by the straps (10,13) connected by the buckle (11,12). As the inflated pocket (4) is at the perimeter of the device (1), the gas pressure within the pocket (4) prevents the body portion (2) from any significant collapse thus retaining better visibility for the device (1) when deployed. Once the user has been located by rescuers, if necessary, the device (1) can be readily detached from the bag by release of the buckle (11,12). Such release is usually required if the person being rescued is to be winched aboard a helicopter. Alternatively, the pocket (4) can be rapidly deflated by opening the valve (7). Once deflated, the device can be re-folded and stored back in the bag for re-use.

The device of the present invention is thus easily worn by a person and can be readily deployed when necessary. The device provides a visual signal on land but which can also be constructed to float on the surface of a body of water.

It will be appreciated that the above described embodiment is only exemplification of the various aspects of the present invention and that modifications and alterations can be made thereto without departing from the inventive concept as defined in the following claims.