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Personal locator beacon success

Good news for personal locator beacon suppliers.

A man from Scotland has benefitted from the power of satellite technology and the global rescue system, all triggered from his modest personal locator beacon.

The man, who is in his 70s and lives "off-grid", uses a personal distress beacon in "check-in" mode every week to let his family and friends know he is well.

On Sunday 3 February he triggered an SOS. This was picked up by the International Emergency Response Coordination Centre in Houston, Texas which in turn notified HM Coastguard mission control centre (MCC) in Fareham on the South coast of the UK.

They tasked a coastguard helicopter and Lochaber Mountain Rescue Team who went to his aid.

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency said the man, who has no other means of communication other than his personal locator beacon, was found to be "very ill" from a potentially life-threatening head injury.

After being winched by the helicopter, he was flown to an ambulance and then taken to hospital in Fort William on Scotland’s east coast.

Neil Blewett, UK aeronautical operations centre controller for HM Coastguard, said the man's rescue was an "...excellent result. When the man activated his beacon that signal went via satellite to Houston, which then gets sent to our MCC for attention.

What must seem a very long way round for an alert to reach us is actually very quick thanks to the satellite technology that we use. In this case, the man's activation of his beacon, the satellites and the beacon itself saved his life because without any of those we would not have known he needed urgent help.

We have since heard that the man is doing well and we wish him a speedy recovery so that he can return home as soon as possible."

PLBs are miniature EPIRBs for personal use. They transmit on both 406MHz and 121.4MHz, but owing to their size the transmission battery life is only a minimum of 24 hours. They must be registered with the Maritime Rescue Co-ordination Centre (MRCC) in the country of use.

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