Personal Safety /
International Rescue System
- LEADING U.S. TECHNOLOGY
Search And Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking (SARSAT)
world...around the clock...NOAA proudly stands watch.
As an integral part of worldwide search and rescue, NOAA
operates the Search And Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking
(SARSAT) System to detect and locate mariners, aviators,
and recreational enthusiasts in distress almost anywhere
in the world at anytime and in almost any condition.
The SARSAT system uses NOAA satellites in low-earth and
geostationary orbits to detect and locate aviators,
mariners, and land-based users in distress. The
satellites relay distress signals from emergency beacons
to a network of ground stations and ultimately to the
U.S. Mission Control Center (USMCC) in Suitland,
Maryland. The USMCC processes the distress signal and
alerts the appropriate search and rescue authorities to
who is in distress and, more importantly, where they are
located. Truly, SARSAT takes the "search" out of search
NOAA-SARSAT is a part of the international Cospas-Sarsat
Program to which 36 nations and two independent SAR
organizations belong to. To find out more about SARSAT
please feel free to explore our website. We hope you
enjoy your visit!
Types of Distress Beacons
There are three types of beacons used to transmit
Emergency Position Indicating
Radio Beacon (EPIRB)
EPIRBs - Mritime Use
ELTs - Aviation Use)
PLBs - Land-Based
for use in maritime applications. There are two types of
EPIRB. One type transmits an analog signal on 121.5 MHz.
The other type transmits a digital identification code
on 406 MHz and a low-power "homing" signal on 121.5 MHz.
Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELTs)
ELTs were the
first emergency beacons Developd and most U.S. civil
aircraft are required to carry them. ELTs were intended
for use on the 121.5 MHz frequency to alert aircraft
flying overhead. Obviously, a major limitation to these
is that another aircraft must be within range and
listening to 121.5 MHz to receive the signal. One of the
reasons the Cospas-Sarsat system was Developd was to
provide a better receiving source for these signals.
Another reason was to provide location data for each
activation (something that overflying aircraft were
unable to do).
Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs)
portable units that operate much the same as EPIRBs or
ELTs. These beacons are designed to be carried by an
individual person instead of on a boat or aircraft.
Unlike ELTs and some EPIRBs, they can only be activated
manually and operate exclusively on 406 MHz. And like
EPIRBs and ELTs all PLBs also have a built-in, low-power
homing beacon that transmits on 121.5 MHz. This allows
rescue forces to home in on a beacon once the 406 MHz
satellite system has gotten them "in the ballpark"
(about 2-3 miles).Some newer PLBs also allow GPS units
to be integrated into the distress signal. This
GPS-encoded position dramatically improves the location
accuracy down to the 100-meter level?that?s roughly the
size of a football field!
In the United States, PLBs are now authorized for
nationwide use. This authorization was granted by the
FCC beginning July 1st, 2003. (Check out the ?What?s New
@ SARSAT? for more information on this recent
Prior to July 1st, 2003 only residents of Alaska had
been able to use PLBs. The Alaska PLB Program was
set up to test the capabilities of PLBs and their
potential impact on SAR resources. Since March of 1995,
the experiment proved very successful and helped save
nearly 400 lives while generating only a few false
alerts. The success of the Alaska PLB program
undoubtedly paved the way for nationwide usage of these
IMPORTANT PLB UNITED STATES 406 MHz INFORMATION
Official PLB Beacon
Beacon With GPS Connection
Rescue Satellites Details
Search & Rescue Satellite
Explained In Technical Detail
National 406 MHz Registration Database
Status of Cospas-Sarsat LEOSAR
Status of Cospas-Sarsat GEOSAR
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