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Thread: EPIRB - 406Mhz Emergency Beacon compare (PLB)

  1. #1
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    EPIRB - 406Mhz Emergency Beacon compare (PLB)

    There are 5 406Mhz Emergency Beacon manufacturers represented in Australia, GME Electrophone, Pains Wessex, KTi, ACR and Kannad. of those two are Australian, GME Electrophone and KTi. This review is for the PLB, Personal Locating Beacon and not the EPIRBs used in a boat, or rather attached to the boat. PLBs you have tied to your Life Jacket or if you wanted to, in your pocket.

    The current 121.5/243 MHz a n a l o g u e COSPAS SARSAT service will be terminated in February 2009 and only the 406 MHz digital beacon signals will be processed thereafter. Consumers have for some time recognised the major benefits of a 406 MHz over a 121.5 MHz device in faster, more accurate detection, personal identification of each beacon, reduced search area resulting in a faster more targeted response in a life threatening situation. However the prohibitive cost of 406 MHz beacons has always been an issue.

    I have a problem with buying anything that is not Australian, or at least buy Australian before I buy products from overseas. There is a hierarchy of course, but anything past New Zealand are thrown into the pot and decided upon from price, quality and support etc. In saying that the Australian manufacturers, based on this review, are not second to anyone, but world class leaders, however, you have to read this review to come to your own conclusion.

    As I am not in the market to buy a unit and I am wanting to give an unbiased report on the models, thus expect me to be reasonable in my judgement.

    If I was to buy a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon) I would buy it based on what it was designed to do, save my life. Based on this I would want to ensure a few things first, the battery won't be flat when I go to use it, it will last long enough for Search and Rescue to find me, and is not going to suffer from being lost.

    You may ask, what do I mean by "being lost", well many of you know that over the years GPS technology has improved in particular sensitivity and tracking. The newer GPS engines (for example SiRF III & MTK32) are far more robust than their predecessors by a huge amount. Anyone who has any of the older handheld and newer handheld GPS will testify this.

    The first thing I look at is the battery life, which ties in with warranty. First number represents battery life in years whilst second is warranty in years.

    Battery Life
    KTi 20/10
    GME 7/7
    Kannad 5/5
    ACR ResQFix 10/5
    Pains Wessex 5/5



    The second thing I look for is if it has a GPS. The difference between a unit with or without a GPS is many many square kilometres. Some suggest a 2km radius without GPS and 100 metres with. I feel far more secure knowing that if I am injured or in freezing cold water the extra accuracy means extra quick location of my position, thus make it to the hospital in time. It is interesting the accuracies that they all quote, however, I suspect the KTi Mini-Sat-G 406Mhz PLB specification is no better than the others. There spec sheets states CEP50, which basically means 50% of the time you will be within the stated accuracy. No one in the GPS world really works on 50%, they typically look at 95% with a stated accuracy of typically 10 metres for a GPS engine. In any event I do see no obvious differences between them all, however, I do want to know what GPS engines are in all of them. Why? Well, even though you only need 3 satellites to get a position (4 if you want height as well) the older engines may have issues with various extreme environmental conditions such as satellite signal scatter, location in a canyon, in forested areas etc. I do not know which 16 channel engine GME are using but I suspect it is either a Nemerix or the Starfire from Navcom (John Deere company). Either way, they will have better specs than any 12 channel GPS engine typically in the vicinity of 25db which is a lot in real life terms. So, based on what I know the following data is prioritised correctly. The locating accuracy is limited by COSPAS-SARSAT system because they have not kept up with the times and maintain a GPS location accuracy within 124 metres (4 seconds of arc). Anything below 124 metres is a furphy.

    GPS accuracy
    KTi up to 1 metre* (16 channel GPS engine StarFire III) suspect same as all others of around 100 to 150m.
    GME <100m (16 channel GPS engine)
    Kannad <120m (12 Channel)
    ACR <100m (12 Channel)
    Pains Wessex <150m (12 Channel)


    *Detection accuracy (CEP50).

    The next issue is strobe, I love strobes because even though the unit may or may not have a GPS a strobe is an added cost effective feature that I can't go without. It is certainly mandatory with the none GPS unit but even so at night time with a 150 metre radius (GPS version) a chopper with a spotlight searching in rough seas at night still may struggle to locate you. A nice bright little strobe light blinking every 3 seconds is worth the extra few dollars.

    Additional features
    KTi both units have a strobe plus signalling mirror & retro reflector
    GME both units have a strobe but no mirror/reflector
    Kannad No strobe/mirror/reflector
    ACR No strobe/mirror/reflector
    Pains Wessex no strobe/mirror/reflector



    User replaceable battery is a nice feature, however, not allowed in Australia. Only one of the manufacturers (Pains Wessex) quotes this but is quoted on the UK web site. Personally to me it's like packing your own parachute for the first time

    I don't know about you but one day of battery usage? Even though the Search & Rescue mob can take off from the base and pick you up within 24 hours, as KTi said, what happens if you are in the middle of a cyclone? Somehow my instincts tell me I won't be seeing that chopper for quite a while. As with the Kannad your battery will only last 24 hours or so, but you may have drifted well and truly away from the last reported signal.

    Usage time is as follows:
    KTi 4 days
    GME 2 days
    Pains Wessex 2 days
    ACR min 1 day +
    Kannad 1 day +


    Size may not matter, depending upon where you have to put it. Clearly the KTi will best fit my pocket!

    Dimensions:
    KTi: 125mm x 84mm x 35mm
    GME: 135mm x 71mm x 38mm
    Kannad: 132mm x 88mm x 45mm
    ACR: 149mm x 56mm x 36mm
    Pains Wessex : 146mm x 79mm x 54mm



    price is to me last on the list but Pains Wesse x did say their unit is to military specification MIL-STD-810

    What the spec means is it is going to cost the manufacturer and thus the end user a lot more money for the privilege of having that MIL -spec on your product. Not to say it is an over the top requirement but certainly pushes the product above the others especially in price.

    Following prices are RRP and for the GPS kitted version.
    KTi $649
    GME $699
    Kannad $699
    ACR: $699
    Pains Wessex $1,099



    Battery Replacement/Refurbish


    GME Electrophone $175
    KTI EPIRB $140 approx PLB $100 approx
    Kannad $399
    ACR EPIRB $370 approx SART $236 PLB no price as yet
    Pains Wessex Free replacement after 5 before 10 years, after 10 years no price as yet.



    Conclusion:

    Well, sad fact of the matter is, although to me the KTi Mini-Sat-G 406Mhz PLB stands out against all others the model is not available until around August 2008 (pushed back to Jan 2010). So, if you need a unit between then and now quite clearly the GME Electrophone MT410G is the next in line.

    What surprises me is the Kannad is dearer than either of the Australian products but is inferior to them as well. The 24 hour + battery life is a stinker and I would not even consider it a worthwhile investment on my life. Kannad is now distributed by Next Destination, the current Magellan Distributor for Australia.

    Just a note, you must register the 406 MHz beacons as they are programmed with a unique identifying code which is transmitted by the beacon in an emergency. If you don't you can get fined.

    After you purchase a 406 MHz beacon you MUST register this unique code with your local rescue co-ordination authority (see below for details) so that, if an emergency occurs and you need to activate your beacon, the authorities will have immediate access to your name, your emergency contacts and the type of vessel or craft you are in.

    Purchasing overseas

    You may be keen to buy from USA etc but be aware, AMSA in their great wisdom decided to add an additional code to the beacon transmission making the PLB in Australia unique to the extent they will know if the item is an import. Personally it infuriates me when the various government agencies think we need to be different to the rest of the world and thus what is good enough for USA or Europe is not good enough for us. It is just a means to keep the in-efficient red tape happening and keep jobs. Let me tell you about "Intrisically Safe" products.....


    Click Here for the application form

    Australia
    Forward your EPIRB registration to:

    Beacon Registration Section, AusSAR
    Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA)
    GPO Box 2181
    CANBERRA CITY, ACT 2601
    Fax International: +61 2 6230 6868
    Fax Local: 1800 622 153
    Email: aus_beacon_query@amsa.gov.au
    Phone International: +61 2 6230 6811
    Phone Local: 1800 641 792

    New Zealand
    Forward your EPIRB registration to:

    Rescue Co-ordination Centre New Zealand
    PO Box 30050, Lower Hutt 6009
    Fax: +64 4 914 8388
    Email: 406registry@msa.govt.nz
    Phone: +64 4 914 8383
    AFTN: NZWNYCYX
    Inmarsat-C: 582451200067
    Attached Images Attached Images
    The sun rises and sets, the moon wax and wanes, oceans ebb and rise, warmth of spring and the coolness of autumn and my heart beats as if I belong to them all.
    www.gpsaustralia.net

  2. Thanks for the comparison.
    I'll wait for the KTi.
    Richard
    Dell Latitude ATG D630 + Globalsat BT338, Megallan 315

    Profile and Images

  3. #3
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    Thanks, I will update the details as I get them in the first thread.
    The sun rises and sets, the moon wax and wanes, oceans ebb and rise, warmth of spring and the coolness of autumn and my heart beats as if I belong to them all.
    www.gpsaustralia.net

  4. #4
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    ACR 406Mhz PLB EPIRBs are available and have added it to the first posting.
    The sun rises and sets, the moon wax and wanes, oceans ebb and rise, warmth of spring and the coolness of autumn and my heart beats as if I belong to them all.
    www.gpsaustralia.net

  5. #5
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    KTi Mini-Sat-G 406Mhz PLB

    Any news yet on when the KTi Mini-Sat-G 406Mhz PLB will be available and what the expected price will be?

    Regards,
    Mike.
    Regards,
    Mike.

  6. #6
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    No pricing but spoke to them on Friday and got Mid December!
    The sun rises and sets, the moon wax and wanes, oceans ebb and rise, warmth of spring and the coolness of autumn and my heart beats as if I belong to them all.
    www.gpsaustralia.net

  7. #7
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    "After you purchase a 406 MHz beacon you MUST register this unique code with your local rescue co-ordination authority (see below for details) so that, if an emergency occurs and you need to activate your beacon, the authorities will have immediate access to your name, your emergency contacts and the type of vessel or craft you are in."

    You may save a few dollars purchasing overseas but it's worthwhile noting the Australia authorities are unable to register overseas units due to their different coding, for an epirb itís definitely worth buying the local product.

  8. Quote Originally Posted by mlenser
    Any news yet on when the KTi Mini-Sat-G 406Mhz PLB will be available and what the expected price will be?

    Regards,
    Mike.
    Original post has gone missing in action.

    Contacted KTi who advised they have a delay of another 3 months.
    Could't wait so purchased to GME MT410G from Whitworth Marine for $599.
    Richard
    Dell Latitude ATG D630 + Globalsat BT338, Megallan 315

    Profile and Images

  9. WARNING!
    The GME MT410G sounds just great, and I've just bought two... only to be advised by GME's marketing manager that although they are advertised as buoyant, and do float, they float on their side so that the antenna will not function. As the marketing manager puts it, they have to be supported by hand so that the antenna is clear of the water. Jeez

  10. #10
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    It's a PLB, which means to me it's suppose to be attached to you in some way either by hand or by pocket not free floating as your boat sinks. But thanks for letting everyone know that if they want an EPIRB for a boat they buy the boat version
    The sun rises and sets, the moon wax and wanes, oceans ebb and rise, warmth of spring and the coolness of autumn and my heart beats as if I belong to them all.
    www.gpsaustralia.net

  11. #11
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    I just got an email from an informed Next Destination staff member that:

    "quote"
    Just reading your posts on the PLB's and thought I would let you know that the Kannad XS-3 406 PLB floats with the antenna upright and will self right, we have tested it ourselves and it has been confirmed by Kannad. It also has a lanyard that you can attach to your life jacket or wrist.

    The Kannad PLB may cost a little more but if your life depends on it I guess that it's worth it.

    "unquote"

    Well apparently the KTi PLB is in the same boat as the GME unit, floats but on it's side.
    The sun rises and sets, the moon wax and wanes, oceans ebb and rise, warmth of spring and the coolness of autumn and my heart beats as if I belong to them all.
    www.gpsaustralia.net

  12. #12
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    I just received details on what Kannard's official comment is regarding their battery specifications:

    "The transmission duration is given for 24 hours in the worst situation : close to the battery expiration date (self-discharge of the battery), at -20įC (battery voltage lower), and taking into accounts that periodic self-tests may have drained a
    certain amount of the battery autonomy.

    If not all these parameters have been reached, the autonomy will be more than 24h. For a new battery at ambient temperature, it will probably be several days. However
    our only commitment is to respect the minimum requirement. We cannot commit on an average transmission time at average temperature.

    Best regards

    Bruno Poyti
    Safety beacons Customer Support"

    If anyone has a Kannard and let's one off, please let us know how you went
    The sun rises and sets, the moon wax and wanes, oceans ebb and rise, warmth of spring and the coolness of autumn and my heart beats as if I belong to them all.
    www.gpsaustralia.net

  13. #13
    Spoke to KTI today.

    "Not before May"

    Might have to go the GME then...

  14. Kti

    I just spoke with KTI - "Not before late June...it didn't get COSPAS-SARSAT certification, it's nearly there".

    Regards

    Mike

  15. Ive got KTi in my aircraft fleets emergency kits, wouldnt use any other make, i think i paid 550 each for 12 of them

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