1. Are you a current member with account or password issues?

    Please visit following page for more information

    Dismiss Notice

PLB, Spot or other emergency Beacons

Discussion in 'Electronic Devices' started by landwire, Mar 26, 2009.

  1. landwire
    • +1 Supporter
    • In Omnia Paratus

    landwire Loaded Pockets

    Joined:
    Dec 30, 2008
    Messages:
    1,605
    Likes Received:
    1,173
    Anyone here carry a PLB (Personal Locater Beacon), Spot or some other type of "Come help me" beacon? The prices have come down over the years. Some circles that I associate with are looking into them. Granted none of them are boaters, extreme desolation or whatnots soloist campers. The look interesting.
     
  2. Leemann

    Leemann Loaded Pockets

    Joined:
    Apr 3, 2006
    Messages:
    465
    Likes Received:
    32
    I don't have one you might try Here for more info on the subject.

    Lee
     
  3. Herbie

    Herbie Empty Pockets

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2008
    Messages:
    75
    Likes Received:
    0
    I've carried a PLB for about two years now. (ACR MicrOfix) I do a lot of casual hiking and some camping, and since my wife is the creature-comforts type and I don't have a regular travel partner, I do a lot of it alone. But I would be doubly committed to carrying a PLB if I had a loved one with me anyway.

    First and foremost, I will say that the game really changed this year anyhow: There are new PLB models about to be certified and sold a little later this year with a street price of as little as $300. Since a 406MHz PLB has no other fee or contract other than purchase of the device, they start to look very attractive price-wise against the subscription models of the other devices out there. http://www.equipped.org/blog/?p=105

    Beyond that, I'm absolutely convinced that a true 406MHz PLB is superior to the Spot and TrackMe products, for a variety of technical reasons but the most important being that only these beacons get the attention of the COSPAS/SARSAT authorities.

    The recent incident in British Colombia where two skiers were lost sort of makes the point for having your alert go to the highest possible level. These two skiers made SOS signals in the snow that were SEEN by multiple aircraft AND REPORTED, but due to confusion at the local level, an S&R wasn't launched until the 9th day they were missing. (Several days after the SOS signals were reported). One skier died. In this instance (and many others), confused reporting or an error made by your "at home contact" whom you are counting on to report you overdue would be overridden by an immediate notification to the SARSAT authorities. Its really important to understand that because a beacon is registered to a specific user, and because mis-use of this signal carries such a stiff penalty, there is absolutely NO ambiguity about the response when a 406MHz beacon is detected by the satellite constellation. EVERY beacon is treated as a bona fide life and death emergency.

    Also important, this signal can be triggered the instant you realize your are in distress. It doesn't require someone to notice you are overdue, or for you to have someone "logging in" to check on your status. If you stumble down a hill and break a leg one hour into a trip planned for 3-days, you want notice going out sooner, rather than later.
     
  4. smokelaw1

    smokelaw1 Loaded Pockets

    Joined:
    Oct 30, 2006
    Messages:
    370
    Likes Received:
    0

    GREAT post Herbie, and I couldn't agree more. As someone who spends as many days a year as he can as far from anyone else as he can, a PLB gives me a lot of comfort (and my wife!) now that we have a child, and I have more responsibilities. I have curtailed a lot of the more dangerous activities, but I am not giving up the backcoutnry. Knowing I can get myself out of just about any situation is good. Knowing that I can call in the artillery if I find myself in a situation I CAN'T get myself out of....is really good.

    For the money, and knowing what's on the line...those new PLBs beat the pants off the spot/trackme devices. They might still ahve their place for some...but they do not, and can not really compete with PLBs as far as I'm concerned.
     
  5. chappel

    chappel Loaded Pockets

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2008
    Messages:
    132
    Likes Received:
    1
    There seems to be some confusion regarding the SPOT device.  It has SEVERAL buttons, one to indicate a positive 'OK', one to send a canned 'need a little help here' as an SMS or email to the contact(s) of your choice, and one to send an 'OMG send the frickin' NATIONAL GUARD' to the same COSPAS/SARSAT authorities that monitor the PLBs - it just gets relayed through the SPOT corporate system first.  Each SPOT is individually registered, and presumably sending in the marines would incur the same false alarm penalties regardless of how the alarm was triggered, and it is MOST CERTAINLY considered just as critical any other emergency call in the EMS system.  The SPOT also has a 'track me' mode where someone can follow your progress (either in 10 minute intervals (as I recall), or each time the 'OK' button is pressed).  If someone back home is worried about your well-being I should think a positive "I'm exactly HERE and just fine" to be a valuable service.  The dedicated PLBs may be technically superior - I'm not in a position to compare - but they aren't as flexible.  It really depends on what functionality the consumer is after.  It just isn't accurate to think that the SPOT is only monitored by your friend Bob and whether or not he happens to check his cell phone.

    That said, I'm planning to pick up one of the new McMurdo 'mini' PLBs this week - AVShop has them marked $25 off until Sunday.  I've got plenty of other ways for normal comm from my plane, and am in the market for a solid 406mhz beacon - hopefully the 'FastFind' fits the bill.
    If the SPOT is more your thing, they've got them on sale, too.
    I'm not familiar with the 'TrackMe'.
     
  6. Herbie

    Herbie Empty Pockets

    Joined:
    Dec 4, 2008
    Messages:
    75
    Likes Received:
    0
    Unfortunately, not really true, on either count. First, the SPOT system does NOT use the COSPAS/SARSAT constellation AT ALL. It uses the Globalstar Satphone constellation, which is a completely separate PRIVATELY run system, with all that this entails. COSPAS/SARSAT (Specifically the US Strategic Air & Space Comand) are NOT notified in the event of a SPOT emergency beacon being triggered. SPOT handles the alert themselves, the alert is routed through the "GEOS Global Command and Control Center" in Houston, Texas, operated by SPOT's partner, GEOS Alliance Travel Safety Group. Basically this means GEOS calls the appropriate local authorities on your behalf, which might or might not achieve the same results. (Assuming, of course, that Globalstar and SPOT are still in business at the time of the emergency.)

    Also as another side effect, the Globalstar network is not global. SPOT won't work in Alaska, most of Africa and most of South America, large portions of all of the worlds oceans and probably won't work in Hawaii. The private GEOS center also has no standing agreements with the governments & S&R facilities of neighboring countries which can slow down response time if you trigger the beacon from Canada, Mexico, or international waters, for example. Its important to understand that the COSPAS part of the name is from the Russian acronym, as that system is truly world-wide with a networked set of GeoSync and LEO satellites from multiple nations including USA, Russia, Germany, France, Canada, etc.

    Secondly, the SPOT network is only a unidirectional data link, so it relies on accurate GPS coordinates to be detected by the SPOT device and then relayed to the SPOT/GEOS servers. The 406MHz constellation is primarily a doppler-based beacon system, meaning that the SARSAT system itself will calculate the position of the beacon based on the doppler-shift to the various receiving satellites. GPS coordinates calculated by the beacon device and sent along with the beacon signal are optional and can be helpful, but they are not required.

    http://www.equipped.org/SPOT_ORSummer2007.htm

    Lastly, the SPOT device is not governed by the same laws as the 406MHz beacon system, nor is it governed by even the basic FCC rules for cell-carriers. SPOT will only forward your "Alert-9-1-1" signal if your subscription is paid up with them, (unlike a cellular phone which will always let you call 9-1-1). If a customer abuses the service SPOTs only real recourse is to discontinue service.
     
  7. chappel

    chappel Loaded Pockets

    Joined:
    Mar 9, 2008
    Messages:
    132
    Likes Received:
    1
    Fascinating! Thanks for the informative reply.

    I did get the McMurdo 'Fastfind' and got it registered. It feels solid enough; hopefully I'll never find out just how well it works.