Pieps DSP

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The Pieps? DSP is the first triple antenna beacon on the market and is aimed squarely at professional users dealing with multiple burial scenarios. Now in theory, where avalanche risk is high, backcountry travellers should practise safe travel procedures and there should only ever be one buried victim. However North American figures show that in over half of accidents involve multiple burials. The highlight of the DSP is a technology Pieps have dubbed Optimized Multiple Search. The Digital Signal Processor (DSP) can separate the signals from different avalanche transceivers and will display up to four victims as pin men on the display, it will then lock on to the strongest, and usually the nearest, signal guiding the searcher to that beacon. Once the position of the first burial is found, the rescuer presses a button which filters out the signal, the beacon will then automatically search the next strongest signal until all victims have been located. This greatly simplifies multiple burial scenarios.

Given the sophistication of the The Pieps DSP beacon, it is a pure digital unit, it being felt that there is no need for an analogue mode as with the Barryvox Opto 3000. The manufacturer claims a 60 meter range and greater precision in the final search phase due to the use of three antenna. In our tests it couldn't equal analogue devices but certainly outperformed the Tracker DTS on range. The three antenna should obviate some of the problems pinpointing beacons buried at odd angles.

There is a scan feature that can be used in search mode. This will give an overview of all theavalanche beacons within range, summarizing them into three groups:

  • The number of victims within 5 meters
  • The number of victims within 20 meters
  • The number of victims within 50 meters

It should be remembered that all distances shown with digital transceivers are approximations.

Our tester observed problems with the buried victim count which could sometimes register an extra phantom beacon. This is apparently related to the beacons ability to fingerprint beacons pulse rate and duty cycle amongst a number of transmitting units. Amongst other issues it seems that beacons of the same type can mask each other at certain locations in the search area. The beacon is also heavy on battery use during search mode. Users should keep an eye on battery life although even at zero on the display the device will continue functioning for some time. The beacon also seemed quite sensitive to electronic equipment, mobile phones, power lines and walkie-talkies could cause problems during a search and should be allowed for by the user. The display is clear and there are backlights for low light conditions

One of the selling points of digital technology is that it is simpler for inexperienced users. With the increasing sophistication of devices such as the Barryvox Opto 3000 and Pieps DSP there is obviously a learning curve and a need to be 100% familiar with the device before the stressful situation of a live rescue. Although all these devices offer a basic search mode a user could become confused by incorrectly pressing buttons on the interface. The Pieps DSP Advanced even offers a temperature display, compass and altimeter which seems just a little bit too much in one device.

The use of multiple antenna and increasing sophisticated computers shows that improvements can be made in transceiver technology while remaining compatible with other devices transmitting on the international 457KHz frequency. Nic-Impex are also launching a sophisticated beacon this winter, the ARVA ADvanced. Given the plethora of choice users should find the beacon they are most comfortable with and then practise, practise, practise!

The transceiver runs on three AAA batteries and includes carry harness and wrist lanyard. It weighs 198 grams and measures 115x75x30mm.

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