Personal Beacons Coming To A Hiker Near You
PERSONAL BEACONS COMING TO A HIKER NEAR YOU Hikers and outdoor adventurers will soon have access to the technology used in the lifesaving satellite-tracked distress alerts carried by aviators and mariners.
The Federal Communications Commission has approved a request by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for frequency access by personal emergency beacons to be used in the continental United States. This decision comes on the 20th anniversary of the global lifesaving satellite program Cospas-Sarsat, which has led to the rescue of more than 14,000 people worldwide since its inception in 1982.
The decision authorizes the use of personal locator beacons beginning July 1, 2003. The action follows a successful experimental program that permitted the use of the 406 MHz Personal Locator Beacons carried by hikers in Alaska.
The beacons will now be available to the millions of people in the United States who explore the nation’s wilderness every year, and opens the potential for saving many more lives.
“The goals and rewards of Cospas-Sarsat are the same – saving lives,” said NOAA administrator Conrad Lautenbacher. “The system is exceptional in that it piggybacks the search and rescue instrumentation provided by Canada and France on NOAA’s environmental satellites, and pulls together the search and rescue resources of the U.S. Coast Guard, Air Force, Navy and state and local units to save lives.”
“People from countries around the world can reap the benefits this technology provides,” Lautenbacher continued. “The ultimate objective is to eliminate search from the search and rescue operation.”
Cospas-Sarsat is a search and rescue (SAR) system that uses United States and Russian satellites to detect and locate emergency beacons indicating distress. The beacon transmitters are carried by individuals or aboard aircraft and ships.
In the United States, the program is operated and funded by NOAA, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Air Force, and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).
NOAA operates a series of polar-orbiting and geostationary environmental satellites that detect and locate aviators, mariners and land-based users in distress. These satellites, along with a network of ground stations and the U.S. Mission Control Center, are part of the Cospas-Sarsat program, whose mission is to relay distress signals to the international SAR community.
Sponsored first by Canada, France, Russia and the United States, and started during the Cold War, the system now includes 36 nations around the world. It operates 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and aims to reduce the time required to alert rescue authorities whenever a distress situation occurs.
Provided by the the Environmental News Service.