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How satellite based communication devices are changing the world

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In an example of the truth is often stranger than fiction, a man in remote Western Australia found himself stranded, rescued and then was involved in the rescue of the pilot of a plane that had gone in search of him!

On Thursday morning, police received a report a man was stranded about 100km northeast of Leinster, a goldmining town 10 hours’ northeast of Perth. He was alone when his vehicle had a flat battery. He alerted a colleague via a GPS-based alert device.

Leinster police contacted a mine site near the GPS co-ordinates and a team of mine workers drove out in the early afternoon to rescue him. Meanwhile, the man’s colleague had organised a search plane through a friend, which ­arrived on the scene just as the mine rescuers turned up. The plane turned around and headed back to base at a nearby station.

An hour later, the AMSA Rescue Co-ordination Centre in Canberra contacted WA police ­because a distress beacon had been activated 7km from where the stranded man was found.

The mine workers, driving back to their mine with the stranded man, were sent back to the area, where they discovered the rescue plane pilot, who had tried to make an emergency landing and ended up striking a tree.

The pilot and a passenger, both unharmed, then joined the mine workers and stranded man to drive back to the mine site.

The Australian 16 July 2016

The alerting device used by the man to alert his friend could well have been an SPOT Messenger or In-Reach device.  These use the Iridium satellite network to pass text messages from your smart-phone to your contacts.  The man obviously needed assistance, but as the situation wasn’t life threatening, he elected to ask his friend to arrange for help.

The Iridium network devices also have a distress alerting function, which in the case of emergencies bypass your normal contacts and alert the SAR authorities directly.  As the stranded man only had a flat battery, this wasn’t required.

The aircraft was carrying a 406MHz distress beacon. These are a single use distress alerting tool, and alert the SAR authorities directly.  When the aircraft was damaged in a forced landing, the pilot turned on his 406MHz beacon, and alerted the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre in Canberra.  Whilst uninjured, this was the correct use of this device, noting the location of the accident.

These two incidents used different alerting methods to arrange for assistance.  Both were appropriate for the situation.

To find out which device would best suit your situation as part of your remote communication plan, check out Save Our Selves – A guide for getting help in remote areas.

Source: The Australian 16 July 2016


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