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UNIDEN VHF Radio Error Indicator?

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Maybe a long shot but does anybody have any idea what the little icon on the LCD of my Uniden UM380 VHF Radio means? 

It comes on after 15 mins or so after powering on, together with a momentary beeping alarm.


Thanks in anticipation,



Uniden UM380.jpg

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Yep, it means it has acquired a GPS fix, so either a built in GPS or it's connected to an NMEA GPS source. It is really for the DSC alarm to be able to provide a position if the distress button is pressed (under the red missile type flap) :-)

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i'm guessing that's a satellite with 3 receive bars that blinks when you turn on


and after 15min? of blinking, sounds an alarm to let you know that it hasn't received an nmea lat/long input from your gps  


so in an emergency can't transmit your position 


at least that's what it would be on my JRC vhf


i was able to take nmea lat/long info off the nmea leads on the power cable of my old garmin and feed it into the vhf nmea input leads on the vhf cable


then the the gps sat. icon stopped flashing and the 3 bars started scrolling


and the lat/long info scrolled across the bottom of the vhf screen


gps icon.jpg






i wouldn't worry too much about it




NZ coastguard are not equipped to receive DSC emergency signals with lat/long data


they have apparently decided to skip this safety initiative


and encourage us to all fit AIS transponders

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NZ authorities don't use DSC that's true. However, many (most?) international shipping and many international yachts do. If your radio(s) have it, IMO it is worth connection. Both VHF and HF (SSB) radios can have DSC, but it depends on the specific model.

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i still think we should organize a test day with coastguard


and hit our 




buttons to see what happens...


in theory all the DSC vhf in range will log the distress calls and positions and alert the user that distress calls have been logged


the problem would be that people who have no idea of our "test" 


would have flashing icons on their radios until they reset them


ie probably never!


what a waste of technology

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OK, I just read the manual for that model. Erice is right, the "Input Position" is the giveaway - It has NOT found a GPS, that is the error, and the reason for the beep. DSC wont work without a fix. If you have NMEA 0183 GPS sentences you can connect that to this model and the error will disappear and a position will be displayed, then DSC would work.

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Hey you guys are amazing!


It all makes sense now. Thank you so much. 


I wonder if there is some way of disabling the GPS function on the Uniden VHF seeing as I don't have a GPS receiver connected to it and it doesn't seem to be of much use in NZ? 

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Personally, I'd connect a GPS. But if you don't want to, it looks like you can turn it off - but the manual is a bit unclear. Try press and hold call, then from the menu that appears, select setup, then GPS. Should come up with a menu here, probably select none or off. Otherwise you can select position, and enter one manually. That should stop the alarm.

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hey good for you Geoff..

as much as DSC with GPS may not seem to be local....it will be.

and it may well save your life. 

It really is less about shore based "rescue assets" than normal shipping. International shipping all now must run full dsc gps connected radios (VHF)...

...and if you are any distance off shore they are the ones who will be coming to help you in an emergency. They often (in my experience) no longer maintain a reasonable radio listening watch (due to the change in legal requirements with dsc radio) ...but if their alarm goes off ...all hell breaks lose......and yours , now that it is connected will give them your exact location if you hit that button.


So just a bit more back ground...the introduction of dsc allowed most commercial vessels to remove the previous three "radio operators" ..(enough for a 24 hour watch cycle) ..most on bridge personnel now dont speak English as a first language or at all ( they dont pay enough)....saving the english speaker for port communication duties.

As much as I dont like it, from a commercial point of view it makes sense.


BUT...if you want help...you need to match it with the big boys..a Vox (voice) mayday over vhf may go unheard !!

In theory a dsc mayday should set off a bridge siren...

The lon n lat is universal and so is the message.


I am involved with marine rescue...and was discussing this issue only a few hours ago.

just recently two situation occurred where the distressed vessels where known to be in distress...but not where they were...It would seem so obvious...you just jump on the radio and in your clearest radio voice read off the gps lon n lat on your chart plotter..

....Which because the skipper has had a heart attack , is read off by the reluctant and scared first mate as.....the chart plotter cursor position not vessel  position!!.

So now we have to do a lesson in how to drive a chart plotter ?..or push the button.

In one case the vessel was finally instructed to set of their epirb...even though they were not "yet" in grave and immanent danger...

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Ais doesn't do the calling features of DSC - direct communication on private channels for ship to ship, or broadcast (ship to every DSC equipped vessel in range). DSC and AIS are different, like AIS and radar are different, but complementary.

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You would have enjoyed a discussion with some folks from the industries talking about the need to update Gmdss.


IT I know AIS and vhf DSC are different, totally.

The thing is one is used all the time and has wide acceptance by users and potential world wide coverage, the other is poorly understood but mandatory carriage under GMDSS. The only time I've used Dsc vhf is when testing the equipment or seeing what has caused it to alarm.


With AIS you can send messages to individual vessels, or broadcast to all, AIS will sound an alert when a message is received. It is not a distress system yet, though you can get AIS MOB and SARTS.


IT when you say private channels what do you mean? VHF DSC uses ch70 and will trigger a channel change on receiving units. AIS uses a few ch but as not interfaced with a voice radio so no automated change of course.


Recently did a GMDSS course. With my current job to keep ticket valid I do one every 5 years.

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Yes times have changed (for the better) since I was a R/O on P&O in the 70's.

SOS over Morse Code was all we had!

Ah, an Oceanspan and a couple of Atalantas........    Only had one Atalanta on my first boat.  Did have a similar haircut though!

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a little more AIs sat track in today's herald


Rocket Lab will carry four satellites during its second test launch, some time after the next vehicle is taken to Mahia Peninsula next month.

The company says its Electron orbital launch vehicle will carry two Earth-imaging Dove satellites for Planet and two Lemur-2 satellites from Spire for weather mapping and ship traffic tracking.




Lemur-2 is the initial constellation of low-Earth orbiting satellites built by Spire.

These satellites carry two payloads for meteorology and ship traffic tracking.

The SENSE payload enables tracking ships worldwide by receiving their AIS signals


The total number of Lemur satellites will be around 100


a second generation series to be launched from 2018 onwards, which will also feature ADS-B payloads

to track airplanes.



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