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November 11, 2005


Upgraded McMurdo and New ACR Beacons Perform Well

In a second series of tests conducted by the Equipped to Survive Foundation, an independent reviewer of survival equipment, the upgraded McMurdo EPIRB (Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacon) and PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) that did not reliably provide a GPS location when tested under other than ideal conditions in the first series of tests, as well as a new ACR Electronics PLB, all provided GPS locations under a variety of real world conditions. The beacons were specifically tested for their GPS functionality, or their ability to "self-report" their location to Geostationary (GEO) satellites, which can relay the location information nearly instantaneously to rescuers.

Equipped to Survive Foundation Executive Director Doug Ritter said, "McMurdo has addressed the shortcomings in GPS performance identified in the 2004 evaluation. The off-the-shelf McMurdo Ltd. 'Precision 406 MHz GPS EPIRB' (also known as 'G4 406 MHz GPS EPIRB') and the McMurdo Ltd. 'Fastfind Plus 406 MHz Personal Location Beacon' (also known as the 'Fastfind Plus 406 MHz PLB') both reliably acquired a GPS location 'fix' under operational real-world conditions."

Ritter also noted, "The ACR Electronics model PLB-200 PLB, marketed as the 'AquaFix 406 GPS I/O P-EPRIB,' 'TerraFix 406 GPS I/O PLB' and 'AeroFix 406 GPS I/O P-ELT,' reliably acquired a GPS location 'fix' under operational real-world conditions." A prototype ACR Electronics PLB was also tested successfully.

All of these beacons use the 406 MHz distress alerting frequency in conjunction with the COSPAS-SARSAT system of Low Earth Orbit (LEO) satellites and Doppler principles to provide primary position information. The purpose of GPS-enhanced 406 MHz beacons is to save precious rescue time by supplying much more precise location information via their own GPS-derived location through GEO satellites - ever present in the sky - rather than waiting for an orbiting satellite to appear in view and then obtain the less accurate Doppler computed location.

The evaluation was divided into three distinct phases: Baseline, Maritime and Inland. Within each of the latter two phases, a series of tests was designed to replicate real-world conditions, with variables such as simulated weather, limited horizon, forest canopy, and the number of GPS satellites in view.

The testing resulted in the Equipped to Survive Foundation issuing 11 specific Conclusions and 17 critical Recommendations for action. Most importantly, Ritter concludes that "the results of this test validate the functionality and desirability of a GPS-enabled beacon's added capability as a means of enhancing survivors' chances of rescue. The current state of the art in Location Protocol 406 MHz Distress Beacons appears to be capable of improving the likelihood of a successful rescue by potentially shortening response times in many likely survival scenarios." Ritter also recommended that, "anyone who owns a McMurdo GPS-enabled beacon that has not yet been upgraded should do so immediately."

A detailed Summary of the 112-page report, as well as the full report itself, is available on the Equipped To Survive web site at: www.equipped.org. The 220-page full report on the first evaluation, originally available only via subscription, is also now available.

West Marine and BoatU.S. Foundation again provided key financial contributions and support for the evaluation.

The non-profit 501(c)(3) Equipped To Survive Foundation is dedicated to saving lives by raising awareness of potential survival emergencies, promoting preparedness as the key to surviving life-threatening circumstances, performing research and offering objective information to allow intelligent selection of effective survival equipment and supplies, providing education in practical survival techniques and procedures, and encouraging development of new and improved survival equipment, supplies and techniques. It publishes Equipped To Survive (www.equipped.org) as its primary educational outlet.

Contact: Doug Ritter


Executive Director: Doug Ritter
Email: Doug Ritter
URL: http://www.equipped.org/pr_11112005.htm
First Published: November 11, 2005
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