Does sound like a great idea for search & rescue. Hope it does well in testing.
Not sure if it raises the odds for avalanche burial victims very much. But it could help a lot with avalanche body recovery—which strikes me as a definite benefit for the search & rescue team.
I’m going to get some more details from Diginext. I think the point about body recovery is important. There have been a number of long and difficult searches this winter (Corsica, Pyrenees last week etc) and if these can be shortened so rescue workers can keep localize victims then that is a good thing. There was a case of a missing paraglider in the summer, it took 6 months to find his body and maybe some tragedies can be avoided if rescue workers can speak directly to people and give them advice - like “don’t move, dig a snow cave/seek shelter, we’re coming”.
Recco fills a similar but complementary role and can detect things like mobile phones even when they are not switched on.
I’ve been a member of pistehors for a few years. I’m also a bbc radio producer working on a tech magazine for Radio 4. I was really interested in your news post about diginext and the airborne mobile phone base-station being used for avalanche searches. Could you message me so we can discuss it.
I have spoken to Diginext to get some more details about the Pic 2G.
First of all they couldn’t comment on any other use of this device apart from search and rescue!
It has been on test with the PGHM at Jausiers since January. With the increasing use of sophisticated electronics at search areas they wanted to ensure that it would not interfere with any other equipment: radios, helicopter systems, avalanche beacons and Recco sets.
The device has a 2km range for an operator on the ground talking to a someone on the surface.
It cannot be used in a helicopter due to interference with the avionics etc.
According to Diginext mobile phone signals can travel through snow fairly well and are very directional. In their tests they have been able to pick up a beacon under 2 metes of snow at 500 meters. That is a much greater range than a ground searcher with an avalanche beacon but helicopters are equipped with avalanche beacons and Recco which have a much greater range than handheld devices. An operator would get both a direction and distance readout.
The device will not be cheap, probably in the 30-50K euro range and needs to be simplified for S&R use. However set that against several million euros for a search helicopter and it is not such a big outlay. If you think of some of the difficult search and rescues of the last couple of years that cost can be soon amortized. Diginext would see all the Mountain Rescue squads in France being equipped with the devices, possibly from 2011.
To give an example last year the Chamonix Mountain Rescue were in contact with a stranded climber suffering from altitude sickness, he could give no clear indication of his location. After 45 minutes of conversation they lost contact and despite a huge search operation were unable to find him. His body was recovered recently.
Hope that helps