ACR Electronics announced their next generation PLBs at SHOT Show in Orlando, Florida. All the specifications provided below are preliminary and subject to change.
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This device has not been authorized as required by the Rules of
the FCC. This device is not, and may not be offered for sale or
lease, or sold or leased, until authorization is obtained. In other words, you can’t buy these PLBs yet, so don’t even bother to ask until they are FCC approved
The six PLBs announced are evolutionary designs based on the current MicrOFix/ResQFix designs and form factor. Originally named the same, this was changed to MircoLink about a month later. I’ll focus on the MicroLink version and then explain the notable differences in the marine line.
In quite a surprising move, given the near ubiquity of GPS in PLBs of late, they have dumbed down the basic MicrOfix to create what they are calling the TerraFix2 406 (not to be confused with the existing TerraFix which is a totally different older style PLB) that removes the integral GPS receiver and antenna to save weight and cost. Improved power management combined with better batteries allowed further reduction in battery size so they were able to take a bit of volume out of the back of the case as well, resulting in a weight reduction to 8 ounces. MSRP will be $499 with a MAP of $349.99.
The MicroLink12 and MicroLink Pro models both have a clear “engineered polycarbonate blend” top cover that showcases all the electronics. They incorporate a flashing LED so-called “strobe light” that flashes through this clear cover. It isn’t yet clear how effective this will be as a omni-directional signal, but we hope to have a test item soon to test at night and compare to the LED used in the GME AccuSat PLB.
The GPS receiver has been upgraded to a 42-channel device which should provide much faster acquisition of location (normally in about 45 seconds according to the ACR representative) and should gain a GPS location under much more demanding, less ideal conditions. Both are key benefits from these upgraded PLBs that sould prompt serious consideration for a owner of the original model to upgrade.
As before, both models incorporate both a basic self-test and a full GPS acquisition self-test. In accordance with the latest revision to the COSPAS-SARSAT standards, a change I helped draft, in GPS self-test mode they will now transmit a test burst with the GPS encoded location. The MicroLink12 has enough battery capability to transmit at least 12 such tests over the rated life of the battery (5 year replacement interval, 11 year storage life). The MicroLink Pro allows for at least 100 such GPS self-tests, and the feeling I got speaking with the ACR representative was that may end up being a very conservative number.
The only difference between the two beacons is the size of the battery and, of course, weight. The -12 is expected to weigh in at just under 9 ounces and will have the cut-out case like the TerraFix. The -100 will retain the full case of the current MicrOFix and weight in at approximately 10 ounces. Both are rated on the spec sheet for 40 hours transmitting life at -20C. I suspect the -100 may go for longer than that given the large reserve.
With the GPS location being transmitted in the self-test burst, anyone with the proper equipment will be able to check to see if the GPS is working correctly. More likely, an owner could use a service such a Procon’s Safelife Systems new web site service to confirm that the location has been received by the COSPAS-SARSAT satellite system and that the location was correct, adding to owner confidence. ACR declined to comment on any sort of partnership, but something like that seems like an obvious direction they might take given the added capability they are building into the beacons.
On the marine side, the new AquaFix and ResQFix12 will have inherent buoyancy, meaning they will float by themselves. The ResQfix100 will still require a “float coat” like the current model for buoyancy.
Pricing for the MicroLink12 and MicroLink Pro, respectively, will be $650 and $740 (MSRP), $499.99 and $599.99 (MAP).
ACR anticipates that these new PLBs will not be available until July at the earliest.
This device has not been authorized as required by the Rules of the FCC. This device is not, and may not be offered for sale or lease, or sold or leased, until authorization is obtained. In other words, you can’t buy these PLBs yet, so don’t even bother to ask until they are FCC approved
The existing TerraFix 406 PLBs, now 2.5 generation older, will be retained in the ACR line to provide a -40C certified PLB for those who require that capability. The TerraFix 406 GPS I (without internal GPS) will have an MSRP of $500 and a MAP of $399.99. The TerraFix 406 GPS I/O which includes an internal GPS, will have an MSRP of $650 and a MAP of $499.99.