Experiences with satellite phones?
Display Avatars Sort By:
Zorg Zumo
(BurnNotice) - F
Re: Re: Re: PLB Issues on 09/09/2013 08:45:12 MDT Print View

"Declaring failure of a PLB to save a life by it's messaging failures is not an accurate assessment."

Absolutely correct.

Testing of PLBs is new. ACR ResQLink owners are experiencing message loss and this has been a bit of a shock to PLB aficionados. Negative reviews are popping up on major sites by people who are doubting that their PLB will work when needed. Their doubts reveal that the PLB concept was oversold - hyped a bit too much.

SPOT has been extensively reviewed - it's pro's and con's examined from the beginning.

I'm not giving credence to "doubts", i.e. I don't believe the ACR ResQLink or SPOT are bad products. But I recognize that a lot of people have had their bubbles burst. The "good" from this is that serious purchasers can make a more educated choice on the device that best suits their needs. The "bad" is that some people are not going to buy anything because nothing available is perfect - and the imaginary perfection is the talisman they desire.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: Re: Re: PLB Issues on 09/09/2013 08:49:23 MDT Print View

"Negative reviews are popping up on major sites by people who are doubting that their PLB will work when needed."

Got any references to those reviews?

Got any leads on whether it is just the messaging system that is failing (common with commercially operated SPOT), or it is also the GPS Fix uplink as well.

I, and everyone here, would like to know about any PBL "fix uplink failure". I really don't care about messaging or the infrastructure behind it.

Thanks.

Edited by greg23 on 09/09/2013 08:56:19 MDT.

Zorg Zumo
(BurnNotice) - F
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: PLB Issues on 09/09/2013 08:52:54 MDT Print View

Head to the REI site and look up the ACR ResQLink. I think it is a review posted in July/2013 (second one down).

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: PLB Issues on 09/09/2013 09:06:13 MDT Print View

Zorg -
I found this statment:

"I tried two self-tests with clear sky view and neither was received by the satellites."

A "self-test" only looks for, and confirms, a lock on the GPS satellites. It does not send a "Help Me" message. Nothing would be Received by any part of the system.

[Edit: If the Messaging was tested that is a different scenario, and as noted on the 406 site, it is only sent Once as a test. In the field it gets repeated.]

And if this single (user incompetent) statement is all you are using to indite PLB functionality I think you need to get a little perspective.

Edited by greg23 on 09/09/2013 09:11:27 MDT.

Zorg Zumo
(BurnNotice) - F
Re: Re: PLB Issues on 09/09/2013 09:27:21 MDT Print View

Bitter beer?

On this very thread, back on page two, is a very nice writeup by KEN LARSON. Read it please.

Regarding the REI review: This reviewer is an example of the non-technical consumer who is posting their "doubts". Has nothing to do with whether or not their doubts are valid, or whether they were able to read directions - it didn't work for them and they are not happy. That is what "testing" capability has wrought.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: the bucket test on 09/09/2013 09:42:23 MDT Print View

Zorg,

Bitter? No, just not willing to listen to unfounded innuendo.


Ken is talking about "Messaging" - the "I'm OK" stuff.

That is far different that a PBL GPS uplink process, and in no way reflects on the reliability of the GPS fix uplink process used in Emergency communications.

Your statement that "Negative reviews are popping up on major sites by people who are doubting that their PLB will work when needed..." suggests that the essential function of Emergency Rescue is somehow compromised and is quite stretch from failed messaging.

PBLs have been in place and used successfully for years in the marine and aviation spheres, and now by backcountry hikers.

"Messaging" has not, as you see.

Edited by greg23 on 09/09/2013 09:52:07 MDT.

Zorg Zumo
(BurnNotice) - F
Re: Re: Re: the bucket test on 09/09/2013 09:54:26 MDT Print View

I see, so you are saying that the "I'm OK stuff" uses a different radio on the device? See you are trying to be "technical" and I'm pointing out the moderately irrational mindset of users.

I happened to read the down the REI reviews and found another one similar to Ken's. The user expressed his doubts and hope that the device would work when he really needed it. Why? Because he had a high "I'm OK" message failure rate.

People used to buy PLBs and never, ever turn them on. They fully believed that there was some sort of magic with the vaunted cospas-sarsat system. Now that they can do some "testing" (I'm OK messages, etc.), reality is sinking in.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: Re: Re: Re: the bucket test on 09/09/2013 10:06:08 MDT Print View

zorg -
"...so you are saying that the "I'm OK stuff" uses a different radio on the device?...

Nope. I don't know if it uses the same radio system or not.

What I am saying is that the "Messaging" and the on-the-ground infrastructure behind it is in it's infancy, has never worked reliably, has seen LOTS operator errors, and has a ways to go.

And that the Emergency rescue side of the system is damn near bullet-proof IF you pay just a modicum of attention to how to operate at PBL.


"[People]... fully believed that there was some sort of magic with the vaunted cospas-sarsat system."

cospas-sarsat does work and is reliable. No magic required.



"Now that they can do some "testing" (I'm OK messages, etc.), reality is sinking in."

Testing via "Messaging" has nothing to do with the Emergency side of the system, except to point out that some users think a PBL should work just like their cell phone. And that if the "emergency" side is handled by a commercial operation, like SPOT, all bets are off in terms of reliability (at least from my perspective).

Edited by greg23 on 09/09/2013 10:36:17 MDT.

Zorg Zumo
(BurnNotice) - F
Re: Re: Re: Re: Re: the bucket test on 09/09/2013 10:42:05 MDT Print View

"I don't know if it uses the same radio system or not. " - yea it is the same radio.

I'm sure you're right - the infrastructure for the messaging is a work in progress. But I've a feeling that few doubting users understand that.

Personally, I think that the sole reason US customers view cospas-sarsat system as "bulletproof" is the US Coast Guard. Most of the high-profile rescues (i.e. newsworthy) are done by the Coast Guard and their skill level is so high that they rarely fail even in the nastiest of conditions. Off subject but it is easy to be lulled into thinking that all SAR is like the the CG.

KEN LARSON
(KENLARSON) - MLife

Locale: Western Michigan
PLB Issue Tests on 09/09/2013 10:42:24 MDT Print View

Sent SIX 1 sec tests in different "clear sky" openings:

Test #1 1150 hrs POSITIVE TEST

TEST#1

Test #1 Test location on the ground

TEST #1 LOCATION

Test #2 1153 hrs NEGATIVE TEST

TEST#2

Test #3 1157 hrs NEGATIVE TEST

TEST#3


Test #4 1213 hrs (waters edge of a bayou)POSTIVE TEST

TEST#4

TEST #4 Test location on the ground

TEST LOCATION #4

Test #5 1215 hrs NEGATIVE TEST

TEST#5

Test #6 1217 hrs NEGATIVE TEST

TEST#6


Operational Definition of "clear sky".......no immediate obstacles in vicinity of outgoing signal for a POSITIVE TEST.

Edited by KENLARSON on 09/09/2013 12:16:53 MDT.

jerry adams
(retiredjerry) - MLife

Locale: Oregon and Washington
Re: PLB Issue Tests on 09/09/2013 11:03:57 MDT Print View

When you say "negative test" you mean you didn't get reception?

It doesn't take much obstruction to block reception

My GPS works under trees. Sometimes in a steep canyon it quits working.

To me, that test is actually more useful because I can relate it to what I'll actually experience.

KEN LARSON
(KENLARSON) - MLife

Locale: Western Michigan
PLB Issue Tests on 09/09/2013 11:56:48 MDT Print View

"When you say "negative test" you mean you didn't get reception?"

>>>>I did NOT receive a OK reply back from ACR indicating the signal from the PLB was completed.

"It doesn't take much obstruction to block reception."

>>>>>This instrument I found to be more sensitive to an "open sky" compared to any Garmin GPS I own


"To me, that test is actually more useful because I can relate it to what I'll actually experience."

This is why I demonstrated the picture of the sky to location the signal from the PLB was used....not 100%, but it give on a feel where to initiate the signal. Above tree line or at the endge of a body of water with few tree crowns should give you POSITIVE tests. Never tried it in a canyon and individuals that have it would good to hear from.

Zorg Zumo
(BurnNotice) - F
Re: PLB Issue Tests on 09/09/2013 17:45:23 MDT Print View

Thank you for the test data. Funny, but I.m sure that my spot would signal from all of those.

Rex Sanders
(Rex) - M

Locale: Central California Coast
PLB "tests" quite different from emergency activations on 09/09/2013 23:21:41 MDT Print View

You can learn a lot more about how PLBs operate here:
http://www.sarsat.noaa.gov/

I'll wait here while you go read ...

... Done already? Here's a quick summary:

- PLB tests or "I'm OK" messages sent through 406link.com, send one short signal burst, to preserve battery life.

- PLB emergency activations send a signal continuously, until the single-use battery dies, specified as a minimum of 24 hours.

- PLB locations are determined by both GPS coordinates sent with the signal, and by satellite ranging from your emergency signal even if you don't send a GPS fix. Satellite ranging can take a while, depending on satellite locations at the time of activation.

All this means:

- A successful PLB test signal received by 406link.com means everything is working. Hooray! Put your PLB away and stop worrying.

- Failure of a PLB test signal to be received by 406link.com, or with no position, or with a poor position, means almost nothing: your burst could have been sent when a satellite wasn't visible, a bird could have flown by and blocked your burst, the Internet link to 406link.com might be down, you didn't have a good GPS fix when you pushed the button, ...

If PLBs had a high failure rate in actual emergencies, we would read about many more dead people found clutching their PLBs with dead batteries. Worldwide - not just in USAF/USCG territory.

406link.com is run by the same people who are glad to sell you a new PLB after you've run your battery down repeatedly sending messages through 406link.com and a few don't go through. Think about it.

-- Rex

Edited by Rex on 09/09/2013 23:36:03 MDT.

KEN LARSON
(KENLARSON) - MLife

Locale: Western Michigan
PLB "tests" quite different from emergency activations on 09/10/2013 07:15:20 MDT Print View

Rex....Your comments are well presented and reinforce Mr. Ryan's comments from ACR / ARTEX - ACR Electronics, Inc (**) in the explanation of the "test situations" we have been speaking to are NOT indicative when used in "distress activation".....though a bit discerning when use in the "test mode" when you would like it to send OK messages.

To summarize, if the PLB has been registered with the national authorities in charge of beacon registration (NOAA for U.S.A. http://www.beaconregistration.noaa.gov/ ) and is activated in an emergency situation, the PLB would be transmitted every 50 seconds for over 24 hours. The UIN encoded signal once received by the COSPAS-SARSAT http://www.cospas-sarsat.org/ satellite system will be recognized within 10 minutes as the signal is reinforced every 50 seconds.

"A successful PLB test signal received by 406link.com means everything is working. Hooray! Put your PLB away and stop worrying."

**"The PLB when tested with the optional 406Link Messaging system has to be done during a clear sky with the antenna deployed and no buildings/ metallic objects/ trees/ mountains/ or other radio interference nearby for it to work at its optimum. When performing the self-test and GPS test you have to keep in mind that the signal is only sent out once per self-test/GPS test and if not performed in the best conditions the signal may become corrupt and the satellite may not be able to recognize the Unique Identification Number (UIN) that is encoded and sent with the 406 MHz signal.

Greg Mihalik
(greg23) - M

Locale: Colorado
Re: PLB "tests" quite different from emergency activations on 09/10/2013 08:07:49 MDT Print View

Thank You, Rex!

Charles Jennings
(vigilguy) - F

Locale: Northern Utah
Satellite phones on 09/10/2013 08:45:23 MDT Print View

I have been using both Iridium and Globalstar for several years now. I loved Globalstar many years ago when I could get good reception, then basically put it on the shelf for the last few years until recently. Now that they have launched the new satellites, I have used my new 1700 model extensively this summer and have been very pleased with its service. Most times I get reception immediately...there are a few times that I have a wait a minute or two until I get reception. I just try to make sure that I have a fairly clear view of the sky and it has worked well for me.

I would suggest renting if your use is only on an occasional basis.

Russ Smith at Sky Call Satellite in Salt Lake City is a really good small company to rent from. Russ is a real people person and I have had a positive experience doing business with him.

Zorg Zumo
(BurnNotice) - F
Re: PLB "tests" quite different from emergency activations on 09/11/2013 07:29:59 MDT Print View

I love it! A successful test is GOOD. A failing test is GOOD. It's all GOOD in PLB-land.

tal·is·man
ˈtalismən,-iz-/
noun
noun: talisman; plural noun: talismans

1.
an object, typically an inscribed ring or stone, that is thought to have magic powers and to bring good luck.
synonyms: lucky charm, charm, fetish, amulet, mascot, totem, juju

Jim Larkey
(jimlarkey) - MLife

Locale: NoCO
inReach SAR experience on 09/11/2013 07:35:03 MDT Print View

@Rex, thanks for your info, and appreciate your insight..... "Hooray! Put your PLB away and stop worrying."

Regarding actual SAR call w inReach, scroll down to the bottom of the blog to the Aug 20 entry by "Greg": http://www.wildsnow.com/7796/inreach-delorme-review-reach/

Also "Greg" posted on this thread, scroll down to Aug 19 post:
http://14ers.com/phpBB3/viewtopic.php?f=28&t=41236

In a nutshell: "The 'emergency beacon system' used was a Delorme InReach, and I can't sing its praises enough."

I was climbing in the Monyezuma bowl a week later, and the limited horizon (more than a 25° elev mask angle) would be a daunting challenge for GPSrs and PLBs. By the way, I found no cellphone coverage even on the top of Castle Peak.

Thanks again to all who contributed to this informative thread.

Edited by jimlarkey on 09/11/2013 12:30:03 MDT.

Rex Sanders
(Rex) - M

Locale: Central California Coast
Good video on how PLBs work on 10/15/2013 00:02:00 MDT Print View

Acrartex, who makes PLBs, created a good video that explains how PLBs work, and compares PLBs to other devices. Naturally, PLBs win, and it's a little dated (doesn't include modern satellite messengers), but most of the video is pretty good.

Why a Personal Locator Beacon?

-- Rex