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Search & Rescue Autonomous Marine Vehicle


A long established need has existed for a means of rescuing personnel in the water in all weather and sea states. To date, brave men and women of the Coast Guard, military, professional and volunteer life-boat organizations are called to go out in the roughest weather to recover people in a marine crises. Often, life rafts are blown away by the wind, and rescuers are required to enter the frigid water, thereby endangering their own lives as well. ISE has addressed these problems by developing an autonomous rescue vehicle that will improve the way people are rescued at sea.

Download SARPAL demonstration Video.


SARPAL (Search and Rescue Portable, Air-Launchable) is a remotely-operated, air-droppable, diesel-powered marine vehicle (MV) initially developed for the Department of National Defense (DND), to recover victims in marine crisis. The SARPAL MV will be deployed from the CC-130 aircraft over the crisis site and operated from the aircraft using command, control (C2) and live video. The platform is based around a Zodiac Hurricane commercial rigid hull inflatable, which is molded to an ISE rigid lower hull containing propulsion, control, communications, and mission electronics. The standard mission package includes GPS navigation, audio (currently marine VHF), video and self-propulsion, all of which are remotely operated from the aircraft. Waypoint navigation is used for defining search patterns or rendezvous points for recovery. Realtime Video is selectable (currently, over a single channel) from four cameras: fore (color and infrared), aft and interior. The fore cameras are used for searching for victims, and as video feedback for manually steering the MV from the aircraft. The aft camera monitors the aft periphery of the MV and victims as they embark the MV using the recovery ramp, while the interior camera allows for monitoring the condition of the recovered survivors.

SARPAL was developed for the Canadian Department of National Defense (DND) using joint funding from the National Search and Rescue Secretariat (NSS) and ISE.


Two Marine Vehicles have been built. One MV, (the M-2A) was fitted with a water-filled fuel tank, dummy engine, propeller and shaft for air-drop evaluation. The M-2A was instrumented with accelerometers and drop tested from a crane into water from heights up to 16 ft (entry velocity of 32 ft/s). This verified that the structures and mounting of the propulsion system could withstand the shock loads of an airdrop.

Qualification tests for Low Velocity Air Drop (LVAD) from a CC-130 A/C using the M-2A were successfully completed in spring 2001. The tests consisted of three air drops from a C-130 aircraft traveling at 140 knots, and altitude of 1300 ft. The test marine vehicle was equipped with a fully functional inflatable collar, ramp and weatherhood. A Unicross parachute was used to stabilize the 2300 lb load and slow the descent rate to typically 32 ft/s. The opening of the parachute triggered the inflation of the collar during descent. The parachute was released upon water impact by a water-activated pyrotechnic release device. The release of the parachute triggered the inflation of the weatherhood.

The M-2A was also evaluated by DND for interaction with a SAR Tech who was dropped from Sea King Helicopter. The SAR Tech also evaluated the accessibility of the MV for victim boarding from the water. The hovering Sea King produced high winds under which the MV maintained a high degree of stability. Hoisting exercises were conducted to evaluate victim recovery procedures.

The second MV (the M-2B) is fitted with the complete propulsion system and electronics for evaluation of its controllability and seaworthiness. Remote control tests have been conducted from support vessels and from a Cessna aircraft. The M-2B was also tested for seaworthiness in heavy weather, off the West Coast (near Bamfield, BC) where seas up to sea-state 5 were found.

For use in a SAR mission, system reliability is essential in extreme environmental conditions. The M-2B has demonstrated its capability as an ideal platform for follow on development, evaluation and refinement of subsystem designs and for testing operations limits. To eliminate licensing issues during the trials, telemetry and video links used during development were low-power, spread spectrum technology. In the future, these links will be upgraded to use higher power radios, which will increase the range up to 12 miles.

Developments currently in progress include the incorporation of an Integrated Lift Recovery Ramp (ILRS) on the M-2B, and integration with SATCOM communications. The ILRS will provide for mechanized recovery of injured and hypothermic victims into the MV using either local or remote control. The ability to navigate and monitor the MV from a land-based operations center is being demonstrated by the integration of the telemetry systems with Globalstar. Through Globalstar, voice and video will also be available to provide capabilities for victim condition monitoring, voice communications, and telemedicine. In addition to these major developments, subsystem design refinements, ruggedization and sensor upgrading are also ongoing.


Payload Capacity: 5 to 6 persons, 2000 lbs
Dimensions (L x W x H):
- Inflated (recovery ramp not included)
- Deflated (approximate)

16’1" x 6’9" x 6’10"
14’ x 5’7" x 4’
Weight - Boat Only: 2400 lbs (nominal)

- Hull

FRP (Fiber Reinforced Polymer) - Displacement type with Sealed Bow Storage Compartment

- Deck


- Main Tube

Modified Hurricane 472 SOLAS inflatable tube

- Recovery Ramp

inflatable ramp (life-raft type)

- Weatherhood Support

Self-erecting aluminum U-tubes

- Weatherhood Tubes

Seven (7) inflatable polyurethane support tubes

- Weatherhood Cover

PVC fabric with vinyl windows, zippered hatches and a door, aft.




Yanmar Diesel, 20 HP, 2 cylinder


5 knots, typical

Fuel Capacity:

18 gallons (at 80%)


24 hours

Electrical Power:


Engine Supply:

12 V lead-acid battery

Electronics Supply:

12 V lead-acid battery

Dewatering System:

Three 12 v electric automatic bilge pumps (400 GPH) capacity, plus backup manual pump



Remote Console (Primary):

Waypoint navigation and autoheading capabilities


Marine vehicle tracking display


Single channel (selectable) video


System status display


Engine & electronics control panel


Joystick (with manual override of all navigation functions)


Interfacing to support platform

Local Console: (for system maintenance/testing)

Engine & electronics control panel

Vehicle Control Architecture:

ISE ACE© (Automated Control Engine) Software




Full duplex,

2400 bps (minimum)

Video (Real Time):

Single channel uplink


Customer provided

Sensors & Lights:




GPS Receiver:

Commercial 12-channel


Three (3): fore, aft, and internal. Infrared optional


Fore and aft floodlights and cabin lights
Navigation lights and flasher






Life Jackets (Inflatable)



  Hand-Held Reverse Osmosis Pump (De-Salinator)


Drinking Water


Food Rations


Fire Extinguisher

System Upgrades:

SATCOM (Globalstar) for Telemetry and/or Video Links


Infrared Camera


Extended Temperature


Mechanised Recovery System


Auxiliary Control Console


Multiple Vehicle Control Capability


EMI/RFI Certified MIL Std 461 E


Military Air Dropable (est. 2005)