Sirius Signal announces new dual color & white SOS distress lights

31 Aug

Sirius Signal just announced a super bright red-orange/cyan electronic Visual Distress Signal Device (eVDSD) that promises to be vastly more effective than the current white light models, especially in coastal areas with shore lights in the background. The new model C-1002 SOS device also includes a Bluetooth app for testing, maintenance, and much more. Note, however, that the C-1002 won’t be available until next year and its advanced technology will necessitate a premium price.

Additionally, Sirius has developed an improved version of its original C-1001 white eVDSD (2015 Panbo review here), and the company is taking over distribution of all its products (press release here). So in 2020, the C-1001 design known to many boaters as the Weems & Plath SOS Distress Light that nicely replaced their pyrotechnic flares will become the Sirius Signal C-1003 with the dual color C-1002 a premium option.

While I haven’t seen either of the new distress lights yet, that will happen at the NMEA Conference in a few weeks, and here are some interesting details in the meantime.

C-1002 dual color SOS eVDSD

Sirius Signal C-1002 eVDSD prototype showing 24 volt battery pack and one-hand switch
Sirius Signal C-1002 eVDSD prototype showing 24-volt battery pack and one-hand switch

The differences between the dual color C-1002 and the white SOS distress light designs go well beyond the new colors, like a modern car compared to a Model T according to You can see some hardware details supporting that claim in the photo above: eight CR123A lithium batteries supply 24 volts of DC to an LED array so bright that a substantial aluminum heatsink is needed. I plan to take that warning about how “High Intensity Light devices can cause eye damage” seriously!

Also note the big red on/off switch that allows the C-1002 distress light to be activated with one hand. The original C-1001 (and the new C-1003) use a simple and reliable twist switch, but the new dual color standard (further discussed below) requires one-handed operation. In fact, the new switch is even designed to be operable by a hand inside the 3mm neoprene glove of a survival suit.

The C-1002 has 6 red-orange LEDs, 6 cyan, and 1 infrared
The C-1002 has 6 red-orange LEDs, 6 cyan, and 1 infrared

Here you can see the C-1002’s thirteen (13!) optically enhanced high-intensity light-emitting diodes. According to Sirius Signal, the six red-orange and six cyan LEDs alternately flashing out the S.O.S. signal “offer increased conspicuity against scattered white background light” and I believe them. Plus SAR personnel wearing night vision goggles will see this eVDSD better thanks to the infrared LED, which may even be detectable by satellites.

But wait, didn’t the original eVDSD have to be white to meet the U.S. Coast Guard requirement and therefore legally replace (personally dangerous and environmentally terrible) night flares? Yes, but then the RTCM 13200.0 eVDSD Standard was completed last June and in December the USCG accepted it as “equivalent” to the electric distress lights that meet 46 CFR 161.013. While this may sound like regulatory jiu-jitsu, I think it was the relatively fast track to getting us better distress lights built to an approved standard.

I have not read RTCM 13200.0, but the first eVDSD built to this standard — this Sirius Signal C-1002 — seems way more than “equivalent” to the existing white eVDSDs. Actually I gather that the standard is technically quite challenging, especially if the manufacturing goal is to compete with relatively cheap (though short-lived) flares or the still approved and seemingly effective white eVDSDs that typically retail for $90.

I certainly understand why a safety standards group would aim high, especially in our world of fast-evolving technology. But let’s also recall that there were no approved electronic distress lights available for decades, specifically until Sirius Signal figured out how to use LED technology to meet the CFR standard at a reasonable cost. And while I think that some boaters will buy a significantly more expensive eVDSD because it’s significantly more effective, it also makes sense to sweeten the deal with added safety features.

Sirius Signal C-1002 Bluetooth app
Sirius Signal C-1002 Bluetooth app

So the Bluetooth app that works with the C-1002 dual color eVDSD is quite separate from the new RTCM standard, not required and not involved. For instance, the Bluetooth radio chip is even separately powered with a button battery so there’s zero chance of it running down the big 24v LED supply.

But I’m guessing that the app will be great for checking the C-1002’s battery status. And as you can see above, you’ll be able to test or activate the light with your smart phone or watch (which should make it easier to avoid overexposing your eyes to the light show).

Moreover, the Sirius Signal new product page describes how the app will be able to send “Check Me” location messages ashore (within cell coverage) and even guide a boater through first aid procedures. And CEO Anthony Covelli told me to “think Tesla” in terms of app evolution.

C-1003 white SOS eVDSD

Sirius Signal C-1003 eVDSD with improved float collar and brighter white LED
Sirius Signal C-1003 white eVDSD with improved float collar and brighter LED

While the C-1002 is strikingly new and different, the new C-1003 white eVDSD is also good news. When I recently compared the original C-1001/Weems & Plath to the Orion Distress Signal, flotation was about the only factor where the Orion seemed to excel. The newly designed float collar on the C-1003 will clearly hold the light higher above the water, and Sirius Signal says they were also able to add at least 20% more brightness to the LED.

So it seems likely that comparing the C-1003 to the Orion will yield a clear performance winner. And I’m pleased to note that where the C-1001 design was already a clear winner in my comparison — user serviceability — also applies to the new models. A boater will be able to disassemble the C-1003 or the C-1002 for inspection and maintenance, and all parts will be available.

The C-1003 distress kit, now including batteries and a whistle as well as the orange day signal, will retail for $90 when available next year, while the C-1002 price is still not finalized. Defender Marine is already signed up as a Sirius Signal dealer and wide distribution is expected. And I look forward to reporting on the eVDSD demonstrations I’ll attend at the NMEA Conference.

This article was syndicated from Panbo


  1. Ben Ellison

    Hi again, Jim. I asked Sirius Signal to address your concern about their IR LED and engineering VP Richard Gunderson responded thusly:

    “Sirius Signal is committed to creating a product to meet the RTCM 13200.0 spec. Our innovative new light contains an optic designed to distribute the light, both visible and infrared, in the required hemispherical pattern. In-house testing has shown this to be true and independent laboratory testing will confirm this.”

    And optics are a huge and complex deal, especially with devices like this, right? I don’t think you’ve even seen a Sirius C-1002, let alone tested one, so can we agree that your bold prediction about how a competitor’s product will fail type approval may be premature?

  2. Panbo

    Sorry, Jim, but it’s hard to take your dire predictions about the Sirius dual-color eVDSD seriously. For one thing, it’s quite common for companies to announce a product before it’s completed a required testing and approval process. Sometimes the result is embarrassing, but rarely (because it’s a very dumb move if you aren’t confident about your design).

    For another thing, this morning I saw the Sirius Signal CEO demonstrate the C-1002 to a large group that included several RTCM members who participated in creating the 13200 standard through the whole process and a relevant USCG staff engineer. No one expressed any reservations about the design.

  3. Jim O'Meara

    Hi Ben

    The RTCM standard calls for full hemisphere projection of the all of the LEDs. That single LED in The Sirius Signal C-1002 product as described/shown could not meet the RTCM 13200.0 Standard.

    The RTCM 13200.0 standard is specific and no independent test lab is going to certify that the 1 IR LED or any other LED in the C1002 provides full hemisphere projection at the required output on the hemisphere unless it in fact does.

    “5.3 Near-IR Signal Characteristic The eVDSD signal shall also include a near-IR component with a dominant wavelength at 740-890 nm. The near-IR component shall have an average radiant intensity of at least 21 mW/sr over a hemisphere above the plane that is perpendicular to the signal’s vertical axis, when tested according to 6.1.9. The IR component shall flash the same S-O-S pattern as described in 5.1 for the visible, colored light. The IR flashes shall be in sync with (i.e., they will occur at the same time as) the visible flashes. No Individual measured point can be less than a radiant intensity of 17 mW/sr” NOTE THE WORD HEMISPHERE.

    No, I am not attending the NMEA and RTCM conference as we spent 3 long years with RTCM and the USCG developing the RTCM 13200.0 standard. I believe they know our capabilities. If we did attend, we would certainly not show pictures or wag our tail until a product was thouroughly tested and certified to the RTCM 13200.0 standard. Any product that goes into the market that doeasn’t meet the requirements of the standard is subjest to expensive recall down the road. Not worth it.

    We do not show a certified eVDSD on our website because we have not certified one. We do show personal strobes that will knock your socks off. The USCG does not require certification for use by recreational boaters.

    Jim O’Meara

  4. Ben Ellison

    Jim, please also note that this is not a product review. It’s a product announcement, as stated in the title, and I’ve never touched a C-1002, as stated in the text.

    At any rate, the Google tells me that you’re the CEO of North American Survival Systems, but I don’t see any USCG approved eVDSDs at your site.

  5. Ben Ellison

    Jim, even if I had the RTCM standard, I certainly could not test if a light met the various luminosity standards. And if the Sirius C-1002 fails to meet an obvious standard, I’ll be quite surprised but will certainly write about it.

    Incidentally, I’ll be at the NMEA and RTCM joint conference next week in Portsmouth, VA, where Sirius will be presenting the C-1002 to all, including many USCG technical folks. Will you be there? What company do you work for and when will your knock-the-socks-off eVDSD become public knowledge?

  6. Jim O'Meara

    You stated, “I have not read RTCM 13200.0, but the first eVDSD built to this standard — this Sirius Signal C-1002 — seems way more than “equivalent” to the existing white eVDSDs.”

    You should have read the RTCM 13200.0 standard before your review of a product that does not exist on the market. This forces one to question the content as well as the intent of the article. It seems more like pre production company advertising with misleading undertones. I am well versed on the RTCM 13200.0 Standard as I was on the USCG committee that drafted it as well as a manufacturer of eVDSD products.. The Sirius Signal C-1002 product as described does not meet the RTCM 13200.0 Standard as written and will not be able to get USCG approval under that standard with this current design. The single IR LED for instance does not produce the a full hemisphere IR projection required by the RTCM 13200.0 standard. You also failed to mention the horrors and restrictions of lithium batteries to shipping and airline travel. From my point of view, there appears to be potential patent infringements which may delay or prohibit any USCG Certification of the Sirius Signal C1002 product.

    We have a eVDSD product that meets USCG Certification that will knock the socks off of anything on the market. We deal with facts, not someones version of the truth.

Comments are closed.

More from the AIM Marine Group