New GPS unit ideal for search and rescue teams: Survivorman

A new satellite-based communication device from Globalstar could be of great use to the federal government’s search and rescue efforts, according to no less of an authority than Les Stroud, aka TV’s Survivorman.

Stroud is well-known for his solo forays into such remote and forbidding locations as a deserted South Pacific island or a Louisiana swamp, toting nothing more than the bare necessities for survival and camera equipment for his TV show. He was making such excursions long before the show took to the air three years ago on the Outdoor Life Network, and using satellite technology is something with which he’s quite familiar.

“I had a satellite phone save us on when we were out in Labrador filming and the ice melted between us and the small community many miles away,” said Stroud. “The phone helped get us out of there. They’re great, but they’re very expensive and they have a tough time getting a signal…They only tend to work 50 to 80 per cent of the time.”

Perhaps that’s why Stroud is excited about the new Globalstar product, known as the SPOT Satellite Messenger. It features a combination of satellite messaging and GPS (Global Positioning System) location technology. It uses GPS to determine a user’s location and the SPOT network to transmit that location and the user’s status independently of cellular coverage. The unit is priced at $169.99, with a one-year service subscription starting at US$99.99.

With the push of a button, SPOT can transmit a user’s GPS location co-ordinates and message to a 911 emergency call centre in times of need, or to friends, family or co-workers to request help, track their location, or just keep in touch, according to the company. The device can also utilize Google Maps technology to view locations.

“This unit can send a message to your friends or your wife and it does it by e-mail, so the advantage is that while every other device sends the message to some foreign-body military rescue operation, this goes to your friend,” said Stroud. “It also goes to the military when you press 911, but to start with, you’re just keeping in touch with those close to you and checking in.”

Would governments be wise to incorporate the SPOT into their search and rescue efforts?

“I think it would be foolish for them not to,” opines Stroud. “It’s easy, inexpensive technology, and it’s foolish not to have it…The SPOT unit may not replace the satellite phone because it’s nice that you can talk with [those units], but it will definitely become more important than the satellite phone.”

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