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[at-l] Personal Beacons Coming to a Hiker Near You

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WASHINGTON, DC, October 17, 2002 (ENS) -
 Hikers and outdoor adventurers will soon have access to the technology used
in the lifesaving satellite tracked distress alerts carried by aviators and
mariners. The Federal Communications Commission has approved a request by the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) for frequency access
by personal emergency beacons to be used in the continental United States.
This decision comes on the 20th anniversary of the global lifesaving
satellite program Cospas-Sarsat, which has led to the rescue of more than
14,000 people worldwide since its inception in 1982. The decision authorizes
the use of personal locator beacons beginning July 1, 2003. The action
follows a successful experimental program that permitted the use of the 406
MHz Personal Locator cue beacon. The beacons will now be available to the
millions of people in the United States who explore the nation's wilderness
every year, and opens the potential for saving many more lives. "The goals
and rewards of Cospas-Sarsat are the same - saving lives," said NOAA
administrator Conrad Lautenbacher. "The system is exceptional in that it
piggybacks the search and rescue instrumentation provided by Canada and
France on NOAA's environmental satellites, and pulls together the search and
rescue resources of the U.S. Coast Guard, Air Force, Navy and state and local
units to save lives." "People from countries around the world can reap the
benefits this technology provides," Lautenbacher continued. "The ultimate
objective is to eliminate search from the search and rescue operation."
Cospas-Sarsat is a search and rescue (SAR) system that uses United States and
Russian satellites to detect and locate emergency beacons indicating
distress. The beacon transmitters are carried by individuals or aboard
aircraft and ships. In the United States, the program is operated and funded
by NOAA, the U.S. Coast Guard, the U.S. Air Force, and the National
Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). NOAA operates a series of
polar-orbiting and geostationary environmental satellites that detect and
locate aviators, mariners and land-based users in distress. These satellites,
along with a network of ground stations and the U.S. Mission Control Center,
are part of the Cospas-Sarsat program, whose mission is to relay distress
signals to the international SAR community. Sponsored first by Canada,
France, Russia and the United States, and started during the Cold War, the
system now includes 36 nations around the world. It operates 24 hours a day,
365 days a year and aims to reduce the time required to alert rescue
authorities whenever a distress situation occurs.