The Challenge:

Historically, the best way a mariner can signal for help at night is to ignite a blazing noxious flame that increases the danger of fire in a situation where people are already in peril. Pyrotechnic flares are considered both an explosive and hazardous waste, yet there is no single agency or policy that helps boaters properly dispose of their unwanted flares. This means that flares often sit on a boat well past their expiration date or are thrown into the garbage, and the perchlorate in the flares ends up in our waters and landfills. Given that the least expensive set of flares costs about $36 and expires 42 months after it’s made, an electronic flare option made with LED technology is an obvious solution.

The Solution:

The Coast Guard is incrementally updating Visual Distress Carriage requirements in cooperation with marine safety product manufacturers like Sirius Signal. Boaters now have a choice between traditional flares and SOS pattern eVDSDs (Electronic Visual Distress Signal Devices).

Sirius Signal eVDSDs are thoroughly tested to not just meet US Coast Guard requirements, but to exceed them. Quality and keeping our environment safe are two of our utmost concerns — which is why we’re always testing our devices and will continue to keep count of how many pyrotechnic flares we — and our customers — have helped keep out of the water.

Ben Ellison describes the technical details of our devices best in a May 2019 Panbo article:

“If a battery did corrode inside the Sirius Signal design, you could access every part for cleaning. In fact, according to Sirius, you can purchase any part that needs replacement. Also, as noted in the comments to my 2015 review, Sirius included a platinum catalyst — that little box glued to the inside of the naked black electronics cup above — meant to protect against the outgassing of a failing alkaline battery. Nice!

I’ve also come to appreciate Sirius’s careful engineering of the on/off switch and power path, always potential points of failure, especially when rarely used…the one-piece copper battery spring and negative power conductor fit into the Sirius case so that its springy tip can engage the large aluminum contact area on the back of the electronics cup (at right) when you screw the lens down a couple of turns. You can also see the large copper positive contact on the cup, and how all conducting contact surfaces are self-cleaning with the twisting motion. Moreover, the Sirius is…easier on the switching path…because it uses 4.5v instead of 3v to produce the same mandated light intensity levels, and thus less current.”

Pyrotechnic flares are a problem that the team at Sirius Signal has been passionate about solving for many years. Our solution is simply to provide superior products that give recreational boat owners a choice when it comes to following USCG visual distress signal regulations. Ultimately, we can have a positive environmental impact on recreational boating.

The safety of the people shall be the highest law.
~ Marcus Tullius Cicero