French avalanche beacon manufacturer Nic-Impex, which makes the popular ARVA brand of avalanche beacon has joined Mammut’s W-Link initiative to augment the amount of information available to searches looking for buried avalanche victims.
The missing link in avalanche beacons ?
Both old style analog and new digital beacons work on an internationally agreed 457KHz frequency but the amount of information that can be transmitted or extracted from this signal is limited for reasons of compatibility.
Mammut debutted the Pulse avalanche beacon which uses a secondary frequency for inter-beacon communication at the 2006 ISPO show. Compatible beacons can send digital information over a high frequency 868 MHz link. From next season the Pulse will be joined by the new ARVA Link beacon, a rugged three antenna design.
The ARVA Link will be the first of the new generation of beacons to rival the Pulse’s easy of use. A clear LCD screen will guide users through trailhead tests, primary, secondary and localization phases of searching. The emphasis is on simplicity and the software runs on a powerful 32 bit Cortex M3 processor.
When the unit is switched on it performs the usual tests including a frequency check, it can also test a group of beacons. The front panel has a large transmit / search button with an inset “marking” button. Once a victim is detected an arrow points the direction to walk and a countdown indicator gives a distance guide. If you take a wrong turn there is an audible and visual warning. Once you are close to the victim the display switches to fine search mode. Four arrows guide the searcher over the victim. Found victims can be marked and this information is transmitted to other W-Link compatible beacons in the group. The searcher can then continue looking for other victims. The beacon supports up to five simultaneous victims although more can be located in analog mode. The claimed search band of 50 meters is also good as is the battery life of 40 hours in search mode.
The ARVA Link comes in a rugged and compact housing. The harness is no longer part of the on-off switch which is, for some, a backwards step. It remains to be seen if Nic-Impex can get the beacon ready in quantity for next season. Nic-Impex also produce the Arva 3 Axes and the Evo 3, both more traditional three antenna designs but without the W-Link.