There are a number of other commercial satellite-based technologies now available to Canadians that include a function for signalling emergencies. Many are designed primarily for locating and/or monitoring the status of people, vessels, aircraft, or vehicles, with distress alerting provided as a secondary capability.
Most of these devices acquire and then re-broadcast their GPS position through a commercial satellite system. Many also offer the capability to send these periodic GPS location reports to a data server – essentially creating an “electronic breadcrumb trail” that can be monitored remotely through the Internet or an electronic messaging system.
In addition to the cost to purchase these devices, a subscription fee is usually charged by the system provider for access to the satellites and the related data distribution and alerting services. When an emergency alert is transmitted, the commercial service provider also assumes the responsibility for contacting the appropriate search and rescue authorities on behalf of the customer.
As of June 2009, some of the satellite-based tracking and emergency alerting products sold by Canadian-based companies include:
- Guardian Mobility – Skytrax, Seatrax, Tracer (www.guardianmobility.com)
- Solara Remote Data Delivery – Field Tracker 2000 (www.solaradata.com)
- SPOT (Globalstar Canada) - SPOT Satellite Personal Tracker (www.findmespot.com)
If you're considering these alternative technologies for SAR alerting, consider:
- What is the extent of satellite coverage in the area where you will be using the device?
- Is the device designed for the environment in which it is going to be used most often (e.g. aviation, maritime, ground and inland waters), and to what standard(s)?
- Is it approved for use in Canada?
- What is the battery life, and what is the optimum operating temperature range?
- Does the device have to successfully receive a GPS position to determine its location, or can its location be calculated through other means?
- Does it have a secondary homing signal that search and rescue units can use to pinpoint your position (e.g. at night or in low visibility)?
- Is the satellite system itself, and message traffic, monitored continuously by the service provider? In other words, will any problems or outages with the system be promptly detected and remedied?
- Is the company’s emergency dispatch centre (if applicable) well-acquainted with Canada’s SAR system, and does it have the appropriate contact numbers for your area? If the dispatch centre is located outside your region, or outside Canada, toll-free numbers for local emergency services may not work. You may need to provide the company with the appropriate direct-dial emergency numbers, including area code, for your region.