eventy-five years ago, Civil Air
Patrol technology included
such basic, creative ideas as
attaching bombs to the fuselage of airplanes to scare away German U-boats.
Fast-forward to 2016 and to the
remarkable tools CAP employs today:
search and rescue equipment and techniques; aircraft cockpit
displays that provide a clear, crisp
picture and tracking of an
position in relation to the Earth; highresolution, georeferenced imagery
beamed to command centers in real
time; a sophisticated communications
network capable of filling the gap in
the event of natural or man-made
disasters; and radar and cell phone
analytics, all of which leverage current
technologies enabling CAP to better
perform missions for our
said Gary Schneider, director of logistics and mission resources at CAP
search and rescue missions
for distress beacons are part of a larger,
highly sophisticated satellite information system.
earlier times CAP flew in circles
over an area looking for signs of a crash
or lost Schneider said.
with the introduction of personal locator beacons and the 406 ELT,
used in conjunction with airborne
direction finders, we can fly almost
directly to the location and hopefully
render aid to injured fliers or lost hikers
much faster than
Nearly 500 of 550 aircraft are
equipped with 406 MHz beacons, and
over 200 are equipped with Becker/
Rhotheta direction finder units that can
track both 406 and 121.5/243 beacons.
New aircraft have both.
The 121.5/243 MHz analog distress
frequencies are not as reliable and are
prone to false alerts. The 406 MHz
ELTs transmit a much stronger, more
accurate and verifiable digital signal that
can be detected quickly.
The search and rescue satelliteaided tracking system (SARSAT) uses
National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration satellites to detect and
locate aviators, mariners and land-based
users. Satellites relay distress signals
from emergency beacons (emergency
locator transmitters on aircraft, emergency position indicating radiobeacons
on watercraft or personal locator
beacons on individuals) to a network
of ground stations and ultimately to the
U.S. Mission Control Center in Suitland, Maryland.
After processing distress signals from
406 beacons, USMCC notifies search
and rescue authorities. The Air Force
Rescue Coordination Center at Tyndall
Air Force, Florida, then turns to CAP
which handles 80 to 90 percent of
High-tech urban direction finders like this one help 900 ground teams pick up
signals from emergency locator transmitters, or ELTs, as well as emergency position
indicating radio beacons, or EPIRBs, and personal locator beacons, or PLBs.
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