Safe At Sea: U Safe Rescue Buoy

The U Safe Buoy is self-driving rescue tool for a man overboard.

August 4, 2020
U Safe buoy
U Safe says its buoys are meant to complement, not replace, other rescue gear on board. Courtesy U Safe

U Safe buoys are the first self-propelled, ring-type lifesaving device. U Safe buoys employ dual turbines (think of PWC drives), which are enclosed within each of the hull’s two legs. The turbines can propel the buoys at almost 8 knots.

The U Safe buoys are operated using waterproof (IP68) and buoyant joystick remote controls, delivering line-of-sight range via radio-frequency signals. A U Safe Buoy can retrieve a man overboard at speeds pushing 3 knots, or it can rescue two MOBs at a slower pace.

While the buoys look simple, Nick Bice—U Safe’s commercial director and a veteran of two round-the-world Volvo Ocean Races—says the crux of creating the buoy involved figuring out the right technologies and software. “Every component is custom-made, including the printed circuit boards, batteries and remotes,” he says, adding that the buoy’s real magic is its ability to be controlled by someone with little or no training.


As of this writing, U Safe buoys require a human interface; however, that won’t always be true. “For the future, we’re looking at options which include integration with both AIS and personal locator beacons,” Bice says, suggesting that GPS could also become part of U Safe’s ecosystem.

How It Works

  • U Safe buoys are controlled from the boat via a handheld steering device.
  • The buoys run on lithium-ion batteries that deliver 30 minutes of remote-controlled operation and are designed to facilitate multiple rescues between top-offs. Recharge time is four hours.
  • U Safe buoys weigh 29 pounds, measure 39-by-31-by-8 inches and have four outward-facing handgrips.

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