New Radio Antennas Can Be Washed and Bent

They can even be sown onto the fabric of life jackets

Researchers at the Finnish company Patria announce the development of a new type of communication antenna that can be bent, twisted, even soaked in water and then dried up, without losing function.

The remarkable achievement open the way towards the creation of more advanced life vests, which could be used on airplanes and ocean-going vessels. In case of an emergency, victims could worry solely on survival, rather than having to search for a working radio.

According to their creators, these antennas can be squashed and bent just like a regular fabric. Despite being subjected to such a treatment, they are very capable of resuming normal functions immediately after they are stressed.

These devices were created by Patria, in collaboration with the Tampere University of Technology, and with research and development guidance provided by the European Space Agency (ESA).

People working in the area of search and rescue say that this radio antenna is a remarkable invention, which could help them locate flood victims, people buried under rubble, hikers lost or injured on mountains, or trekkers caught in an avalanche.

It may also be easier from now on to detect sailors who survived a shipwreck, even if powerful currents take them far away from traveled routes. This may all become possible through the use of the new antenna, which is made up of a highly flexible, lightweight material.

The antenna's construction is robust against water exposure and moist conditions, and has a very high degree of resistance against wear and tear. Its operating frequency is covered by the Cospas-Sarsat worldwide search and rescue satellite system.

Up until now, this satellite constellation managed to lead rescue workers to more than 26,000 victims, proving its worth many times over. The system has been in operation for the better part of 30 years.

“Sponsored by Canada, France, Russia and the United States, and started during the Cold War, the system operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, and aims to reduce the time required to alert rescue authorities in emergencies,” an ESA press release reports.

“Recent field trials with the antenna show that someone lost at sea wearing a life vest equipped with this new technology can be pinpointed within minutes,” the statement adds.

“The Cospas-Sarsat system consists of emergency radio beacons carried by aircraft, ships or people, receivers on satellites, ground receiving stations, mission control centers and rescue coordination centers,” the document concludes.

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