What is a personal radio beacon
Denis Korablev
  • 05.10.2021
  • 326

What is a personal radio beacon

The development of modern technologies involving space satellites has significantly increased the efficiency of rescue operations, covering the entire surface of the planet. The vast expanses of seas and oceans are not an obstacle for rescue and search operations, the purpose of which is to save the lives of people in trouble. Improvements in electronic devices, their portability and increased operability have led to the creation of a new generation of beacons that operate in the most extreme conditions.

PRB / PLB is a personal radio beacon operating on the principle of EPIBT emergency buoys well known to sailors. Both devices are capable of sending a distress signal, but the personal radio beacon registers for a specific person, and the EPIBT registers for the ship. The possibility of application of PWB on land and on water made it very popular, and the constant ability to send a distress signal directly through a special satellite made this device indispensable in extreme situations. Personal emergency beacons are approved and recommended for use on all ships by the Maritime Register.

There can be no obstacles in the noble goal of saving a life. Countries (there are already more than 40!), Regardless of their location, state structure and form of government, religion, have united into a single COSPAS / SARSAT system. The main purpose of the association of countries is to minimize the time between the receipt and processing of distress signals and the beginning of the actual assistance to people in distress. Sometimes the slightest delay in providing assistance can have serious and sometimes tragic consequences.

In order to prevent delays in the start of rescue operations, the COSPAS / SARSAT member countries are constantly increasing the number of ground stations on their territories (LUTs, LUTs, or LUTs - local user terminals) that provide reception and processing of distress signals received from artificial earth satellites ... Dozens of vehicles, equipped with the latest electronic devices, and located in geostationary (GEOSAR), medium (MEOSAR) and low (LEOSAR) orbits, are united under the general control of the Cospas-Sarsat LEOSAR system. All satellites operate 24/7 in local and global modes.

Local tracking mode using a tracking satellite, provide for the digitization of the onboard equipment of a distress signal coming from a beacon at a frequency of 406 MHz. After processing the received data, the satellite is automatically capable of measuring the Doppler shift and synchronizing the information received. All LUP stations within the satellite's visibility receive already generated digital data sufficient to organize the start of rescue operations. The satellites, united into a single system, constantly exchange the received information, which is periodically dropped via the Earth-to-board satellite channel. Due to this, each personal radio beacon that sends a distress signal can be localized by all active LUT stations, even if these stations are outside the coverage area of the satellite signal receiving the emergency signal. This ensures the global operation of the Cospas-Sarsat system, covering the entire surface of the Earth, without "dark" zones. One of the main advantages of a personal radio beacon is that the rescue stations closest to the buoy receive the distress signal received by the satellite.

The joint cooperation of the COSPAS / SARSAT member countries has made it possible to coordinate the use of satellites in such a way that almost the entire surface of the planet is under constant control, without exception. A distress signal, successfully received and transmitted by the satellite of the then USSR in time, was used in a successful operation to rescue the crew of a light aircraft in Canada. Since then, the joint work of the participants in the system has ensured the rescue of more than 30,000 people in trouble.

The distress signal and its location, received by the system satellite, is instantly transmitted on a free basis to the national rescue services of the country participating in the system closest to the place of the distress. This significantly reduces the time from signaling an action to the start of rescue operations. The latest models of PRB are able to bring rescuers to a person in trouble in the shortest possible time. Freely fitting in a pocket, the device, operating at a frequency of 406.0 - 406.1 MHz, is designed (after activation by one press of the emergency button), to work for 24 hours, which ensures rescue in any situation. The batteries guarantee that the device can be stored for 5 years.

The GPS module built into the PWB (personal radio beacon) ensures the determination of coordinates as accurately as possible, determining the location of the object with an accuracy of up to 3 meters. There are models of personal beacons that do not require manual activation - they automatically start sending a distress signal upon contact with water (for example, when a person falls overboard). According to experts 2yachts, the latest PWB models equipped with a GPS (or GLONASS) module transmit an encrypted distress signal to a modern satellite equipment that allows ground stations to know the coordinates of a distress up to 5 minutes. Previously, when PRBs did not have built-in GPS, this procedure could take up to 45 minutes, which indicates a constant improvement of the device for rescue. Leading maritime safety brand McMurdo, for example, releases improved PRB models almost every year. In 2009 it became the Fast Find 200 model, its updated version Startfind S5 AIS SARP was presented in 2010, 2011 was pleased with the innovative Startfind S10 AIS Beacon model.

The beacon identifier will be able to transmit a signal containing information not only about the geographic coordinates of the disaster site, but also provide information about the time of the incident, country code, beacon type and other data provided by the owner when registering the device. Inaccurate information about the owner of a personal radio beacon provided during registration, its improper conduct, can lead, as a result, to an increase in the material and technical costs of conducting rescue and search operations, but most importantly - an increase in the preparation time. Registration of a personal beacon means that a unique signal transmitted by the beacon to the satellite will be registered in the International Beacon Database (IBRD). During registration, the device is assigned its own unique ID code, which will be transmitted in the event of an alarm activation. There is a practice of leasing beacons or sharing the device. In any case, a complete update of the data is required, and the introduction of new information, even temporary. The effectiveness of the use of personal buoys is so great that the Royal Navy, the US Coast Guard and thousands of commercial organizations have purchased PWB / PLB for their ships and crews.

The manufacturers of the device, in addition to providing the appropriate certificates, may provide an opportunity to test a personal radio beacon. The device has a self-test function, when triggered, an alarm is not transmitted to the COSPAS / SARSAT search system. If real testing is necessary, with a distress call, this can only be done with the special permission of the nearest coordination center.

Considering that the system monitors the signals of millions of PWB devices, such permission is granted in exceptional cases. If the beacon is still activated, it is necessary to contact one of the coordination centers as soon as possible to cancel the alarm. The coordinates of all centers can be found at the official center. Personal beacons have an algorithm to prevent any risk of accidental or false activation. The antenna of the device is completely hidden in the stowed position, and is automatically transferred to the optimal position during deployment.

It is quite natural that a personal radio beacon is in demand among those who often go to sea, and sea crossings take up a significant part of the time. When rescuing a wrecked ship, or when searching for a person at sea, the required number of rescuers, machinery and equipment are involved. This does not mean that by sending a distress signal, the person in trouble should begin to calculate the amount of money spent on the operation.

Rescue operations are fully funded from the budget of the respective country. In Russia, this is regulated by Federal Law No. 151 "On Emergency Services and the Status of Rescuers". It is very common in the world to the practice of covering rescue costs through insurance payments. In such situations, when registering a personal fight, a special insurance contract is concluded. But it happens that companies dispute insurance claims in court, and it is not uncommon for the rescued person to pay for his own salvation.

Be that as it may, the main rule of COSPAS / SARSAT is to save first, money is not the main thing! More important than human life, there is nothing more valuable in the world. The development of technology has made it possible to secure each member of the vessel to the maximum. You should not skimp on safety, especially for owners of yachts rented out in yacht rental, which should provide their clients with maximum comfort and security. Everyone should have a personal radio beacon on board, this is an additional chance for life.