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Local inventor receives patent

By Marc T. Brown

 

Andrew Voykin, of Brandon, Florida, has been a semi-professional ice hockey player and the manager of a par-three golf course and skating rink. Now, he is also a patented inventor. His patent, specifically US Patent Number 4,143,437, is for a device that looks like a steel hula hoop criss-crossed with thin steel wire and springs.  But when the odd-looking contraption is in place on top of a buoy or aid in a shipping channel, it keeps pesky sea birds from landing on the devices.  And that can mean a lot to ship pilots trying not to run aground.

"When a bird lands on a buoy at night," Voykin said, "the captain can't see if the lights are blinking or not - he can run aground." Birds on sea buoys can cause other problems, too. "Guano, which collects on the buoys, corrodes paint and accounts for a large amount of tax money spent each year on cleaning and painting the markers" added Voykin.

That's fine, but how does an ex-hockey player get interested in keeping birds off buoys?

Well, Voykin used to live in Chicago and one of his friends there manufactured a harmless, spray-on bird repellant.

"When I moved to Brandon six years ago, I ran into some people with bird problems. I called my friend and we were in business."

Voykin founded his own company - Gulfshore Bird-A-Way Service Corp. - and started selling the repellant for use at state universities, the federal courthouse, the county health building, and the Hillsborough County school system "mostly to keep pigeons and sparrows away."

Four years ago, he received a call from the U.S. Coast Guard office in Miami asking to test his repellant for use on buoys.

"I knew it wouldn't work because of the sea water," he said, "but I was out fishing one day, saw the buoys, and got the idea for the invention."

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Andrew Voykin of Brandon displays his invention to keep sea birds from roosting on buoys. Voykin said he hopes he can sell the device to private ports internationally. (Photo by Greg Fight)

The first model was too rigid, he said, so he modified it with springs to make it safe for both birds and men working on the buoy.

After two years and some help fro Patent Attorney Art Fisher of Tampa, Voykin finally received a patent for his invention.

The patent is dated Mar. 13, 1978 - the day Voykin turned 43.

Voykin has received praise from some members of the coast guard for his invention, and one retired officer said it was the only device he had seen in 24 years that worked.

But the official word from Washington was that the coast guard has a similar device and was not that interested in Voykin's invention.

But Voykin, who estimates the coast guards will save $323 per buoy over six years in just painting and cleaning, appealed to U.S. Sen Richard Stone (D) Fla. and has been notified that the coast guard will test the device a second time.

Voykin, however, said that the coast guard is not the only agency that can use the device, and he plans to sell it to private harbors and foreign countries.

"Some kind of international aid to navigation society has already said they are interested," he said, "and right now, I'm trying to get literature together so I can market the thing."

Once the device gets into production, Voykin said different sizes of the anti-roost device can be sold for an average of $35 apiece.

This patent is Voykin's first, but he said he has some ideas for the future.

"And if this one makes enough money, maybe I can retire and go fishing every day." he commented.

 

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