Safety at sea is always of paramount importance in considering the cruising sailors inventory of on board devices - and none more so than emergency distress flares. For many years now this area has been ably and reliably covered by the use of pyrotechnic flares which, on numerous occasions have saved vessels at sea and the personal on board and/or in the water. I myself have had personal experience of the effectiveness of flares being used successfully to attract a potential rescuer to my immobilised vessel (another story).As good and effective as they have been,and nobody would argue that, they have some major drawbacks which can be irritating, costly and on occasion, dangerous to life and limb. Their useful life is quite short, therefore having to be replaced regularly (costly). Disposing of them is an irritating procedure. They can drip molten compounds onto the deck, burning wood or melting fibreglass. In the worse case scenario, if not handled correctly, or if they explode, they can cause severe burns or in the very worst case, loss of sight or even life. Whilst this is very rare, there are instances when this has happened.
Enter the ODEO (Omni Directional Electro Optical) flare invented by Nic Lonsdale of the UK and his partner Steve. Here is their story of the development of the ODEO flare:
Introducing the ODEO Laser Flare
A few years back Nic Lonsdale was doing a delivery from the UK down to the Canaries when his crewman, a vastly experienced Southern Ocean Whitbread sailor (that shows our age!) showed him a laser. The idea stuck in his mind and a few years later when Nic was working as a full time Coastguard in Weymouth he started looking into lasers in more detail. The pyrotechnic red hand held flare was becoming more and more difficult to transport, hold and dispose of, as the laws concerning explosives become stricter.
|ODEO flare pack|
Together they formed a company that January and started development immediately. By autumn they knew they had something that would work. A former customer of Steve in the marine electronics business was kind enough to let this new venture have a part of his stand at the Marine Equipment Trade Show in Amsterdam – and here they picked up a design award in 2010 for the new product; the Omni Directional Electro Optical (ODEO) Flare.
The prestigious design award at METS led to a lot of interest in this little start up venture that was really nothing more than two men in a shed working in their spare time. The international distributors looked at the first crude version and made it clear that if it could be turned into a proper product they would be interested in buying.
Although that first version sold well it was obvious that this young company needed to gear up to full scale mass production. They shut their doors to the outside world and settled down to hundreds of hours of further development and made serious investment in tooling and production.
November 2011 saw them again back at METS with the Mk2 version, ready for mass production. The farsighted distributors that saw something worthwhile the previous year now saw a product ready for the market and they bought it. The Odeo Flare; an alternative to the red hand held flare that used lasers instead of pyrotechnics to generate the bright red light of a flare, was in demand.
Since then, their ODEO flares have taken off in the marine market and are being carried, not as an alternative yet, but as complimentary rescue devices by many cruisers.
They are currently being tested by various coastguard authorities around the world as to their veracity and it won't be long before recommendations are made.
Meanwhile, at $250 approximately, the ODEO flare could/should be a valuable addition to any cruising sailors safety device inventory before setting sail and leaving port.