New Tracker finds avalanche victims in real time

After a decade of loyal service Backcountry Access are updating their Tracker beacon for the 2007/08 season. The new Tracker 2 beacon is gaining a small third antenna and getting a processor upgrade. The third antenna gives the beacon a 3D view of the search area. Some manufacturers have used this extra information to provide a more advanced user interface. Backcountry Access are sticking with their tried and trusted direction arrows and distance design. Instead the upgrade will allow real time searching (see video) and a multi-victim indicator has been added.

Tracker 2 Avalanche Beacon

One of the big problems with digital beacons has been their slow response times. Power requirements mean that you can’t just fit the latest Intel processor. A beacon has to transmit for at least 200 hours and receive for 1 hour. A hard task on a couple of 1.5V batteries. The delay in updating search information is a major cause of stress when searching for victims. Searchers have to go at the speed of the beacon, waiting for the display to update and stabilize.

Click on the [CC] button for English subtitles

We tested the Tracker 2 - the prototype we saw is in early stages of development although BCA tells us the Tracker 2 will be available from the start of the 2008 season, probably November. Moving around the search area there was next to no delay in updating direction and distance information. The new tracker has the same system for locating multiple victims as the original Tracker but gains a multi-victim LED. This may not be as advanced as that of the Pieps DSP or Pulse but it works reliably. The case has also been redesigned. It is both smaller measuring 13.2cm x 8.6cm x 2.5cm, more ergonomic and comes in a rubberized plastic like you find on industrial test equipment. The direction indicators are also brighter and visible even in strong sunlight.

Posted by davidof on Thursday, 05 April, 2007 at 08:42 PM

We were speaking to Salewa/Dynafit who import the Tracker beacons into France. They say that the Tracker 2 is not expected this season. Certainly the version we saw didn’t yet have the multi-victim search and needed work on the range. Delays seem to be common as these devices get more complicated.

Posted by davidof on  Wednesday, 07 November, 2007  at 09:43 PM
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