With multi-antenna becoming the de-facto standard in avalanche beacons French manufacturer Impex has introduced its latest model, the A.D.vanced. Adding a second antenna has the advantage of giving the searcher direction information. In theory this lets him home in on avalanche victims faster.
One problem has been the processing power of the transceiver. With limited power supply and constraints on battery life manufacturers have resorted to frugal embedded processors and sometimes the results have been less than satisfactory. Output that has trouble keeping up with a searcher and that can be downright confusing at times. The creeping feature creature has also been at work and some beacons sport a myriad of advanced options.
The ARVA A.D.vanced employs a fast 16 bit computer but follows the philosophy of previous Impex beacons by keeping the interface very simple. The result is a fast and easy to follow transceiver. The long, lozenge shaped body houses two antenna arranged in a ‘T’ shape, the larger antenna gives a good range, around 40 meters, although still less than the hybrid Ortovox X1 and analogue Ortovox F1.
The beacon can be switched from digital to analogue mode for complicated multi-victim searches, although practise is required to be effective in this kind of scenario. The analogue range is the same as the digital.
The software can be easily upgraded using an external connector although the unit must be returned to the manufacturer. The case is the usual robust Impex design. We had some doubts about the LCD display but Impex assured us that the unit had been shock tested in compliance with the European EN 300 718 standard. The direction L.E.Ds were very bright and clear in direct sunlight. The unit was noticeably very responsive.
With advanced beacons such as the Pieps DSP and the Ortovox S1 on the horizon we wondered why Impex didn’t give the user more information? They explained that the A.D.vanced was capable of detecting the number of victims but that the technology wasn’t reliable . In the heat of a real search Impex wanted to provide a beacon with as little room for confusion as possible.
A frequent complaint of backcountry travellers is beacon cost. The A.D.vanced retails for around 289 Euros. With the weak dollar prices will be higher in dollars. Impex told us that there were two problems, a small market, around 60,000 units per year worldwide and high development costs. Although the electronics are relatively simple the bulk of the cost goes into the case moulding and R&D. Impex has around a third of the French market and hopes to improve its position in North America thanks to its importer: LifeLink.
Complete Review: ARVA A.D.vanced
 The Pieps DSP will give the number of users but sometimes will show a ‘ghost’ victim. The prototype Ortovox S1, a single antenna design with additional sensors, plots the location of avalanche victims on a display. The unit will be available next year.
Posted by davidof
on Monday, 07 February, 2005 at 08:39 AM
We have PIEPS DSP beacons this year, they don’t ‘sometimes show a ghost victim’, sadly they frequently show one or more ghost victims. This can be really confusing!
Also as a longtime user of the old analaogue Autophons, where speedy movement is an advantage, I find that in training scenarios I frequently move too fast for the DSP to keep up and the display just blanks and looses all information. Of course this is a problem with all the digital signal processing transcievers not just the Pieps, but I keep an old Autophon in my pack to bury for test searches and in case I ever need a back up to the pieps in a real search situation.
Posted by on Wednesday, 09 February, 2005 at 05:07 AM
Thanks for the extra information Colin. It seems that digital technology will have to become a lot more foolproof before advanced features can be offered. It will be interesting to see how the Ortovox S1, previewed at the IPSO in Munich, performs.
Posted by davidof
on Wednesday, 09 February, 2005 at 11:56 AM
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