How do I register my Australian coded distress beacon?
Registration of 406 MHz Au or International coded distress beacon is not a legal requirement in New Zealand.
Registration is free for New Zealanders with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA - Canberra) and can result in a more efficient search and rescue effort. Digital 406 MHz distress beacons transmit a unique code that identifies a particular beacon when it is activated.
A registered 406 MHz distress beacon will allow the Rescue Coordination Centre (RCCNZ - Wellington) New Zealand to access the registration database and find contact details for the owner of the beacon in the event the beacon is activated in New Zealand.
To begin registration online for your 406 MHz distress beacon - click here.
What is a 406 MHz distress beacon?
A 406 MHz distress beacon is a small electronic device that, when activated in a life threatening situation, alerts rescue authorities and assists them to locate those in distress.
What types of 406 MHz distress beacons are there?
There are three types of 406 MHz distress beacon:
EPIRBs - Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons - are used in the marine environment on ships and boats
ELTs - Emergency Locator Beacons - are used in aircraft
PLBs - Personal Locator Beacons - for personal use by trampers, four-wheel drivers, crew in boats etc
For more detailed information about the types of beacons available see the distress beacons page on this website.
How do 406 MHz distress beacons work?
When a 406 MHz distress beacon is activated it transmits a digital signal that can be detected by a series of stationary and orbiting satellites called the Cospas-Sarsat satellite system. These satellites listen for any active beacons and report the beacon position to the appropriate rescue authorities.
Beacons developed for Cospas-Sarsat operate on the 406 MHz frequency and use digital technology to transmit a unique code (Hex ID or UIN) which enables the rescue authorities to identify the beacon. The beacon will also transmit on the 121.5 MHz frequency. This signal can be picked up by overflying aircraft and is primarily used by rescuers to "home in" on the beacon's location.
The Cospas-Sarsat satellites provide a close estimate of the beacon position which can be used to send rescuers into the right region and then the 121.5 homing frequency can be used to guide the rescuers to the exact beacon position.
Some of the distress beacons also have the ability to transmit their GPS position which provides rescue authorities with a much more accurate position fix for the beacon.
For more detailed information on 406 MHz distress beacons see the technical information page on this website.
Why do I need to register my 406 MHz Coded distress beacon?
A registered 406 MHz beacon will allow the Rescue Coordination Centre New Zealand to access the registration database with AMSA - Canberra and find contact details for the owner of the beacon, details of registered vessels, aircraft or vehicles where the beacon is used, and details of your nominated emergency contacts who may be contacted if the beacon is activated.
Registered beacon owners will also have access to the AMSA Online Trip Plan and be able to upload extend travel plans for either in New Zealand or around the world.
These emergency contacts may be able to provide valuable information to the Rescue Coordination Centre that can assist with a more expedient rescue.
What is a Hex ID or UIN number?
The Hex ID or Unique Identity Number (UIN) is the unique code programmed into each 406 MHz distress beacon and is transmitted when the beacon is activated.
When registering a distress beacon, this code must be included on the registration form as it is the only code that links the individual distress beacon to the registration database. Without a Hex ID or UIN the beacon cannot be registered.
The Hex ID or UIN is 15 characters long and is made up of hexadecimal numbers (0-9) and letters (A-F). The code can normally be found on the label of the 406 MHz distress beacon, although the position of the code on the beacon will vary depending on which model you have.
Ensure that you know where the Hex ID or UIN is located on your 406 MHz distress beacon when you purchase it.
Being able to identify the beacon means that the rescue authorities can access your registration details. This means they can phone the contacts you have listed which enables the rescue authority to determine if the alert is real or false and can greatly speed up the time it takes to locate your position and effect a rescue.
What is a Check Sum Number (CSN)?
From the 1st July 2012 all new 406 MHz distress beacons manufactured will also carry a Check Sum number.
This number is additional to the Hex ID or UIN. The purpose of this number is to reduce the errors made by entering the wrong Hex ID or UIN into the beacon registration database when the beacon is registered. The number is simply used to verify that the Hex ID or UIN has been entered correctly.
If the beacon has a check sum number this will normally be listed on the sticker directly after the Hex ID or UIN number.
What is the difference between GPS coded and non GPS coded 406 MHz distress beacons?
GPS coded 406 MHz distress beacons have the ability to obtain an accurate position from the Global Positioning Satellites (GPS). This position is then encoded and sent through the Cospas-Sarsat satellites back to the rescue authorities. Therefore a position for the beacon is provided as soon as any of the orbiting or stationary satellites detect the beacon.
Non GPS coded 406 MHz distress beacons don't have this functionally and the position of the beacon is determined by the orbiting satellites using the doppler effect to determine the doppler shift to locate the position of the active beacon. This often takes several passes of the satellites which can take a number of hours to complete. The stationary satellites have no ability to determine the position of non GPS coded 406 Hz distress beacons.
406 MHz beacons with GPS capability are normally more expensive than the non GPS type but, due to their ability to quickly provide accurate positions, the AMSA & RCCNZ highly recommend the use of beacons with GPS functionality.
My beacon has been stolen, what do I do?
Owners are asked to notify AMSA - Canberra if they sell their distress beacon or if it is lost, stolen or destroyed. This information will be recorded against the beacon registration in the database.
If your beacon has been stolen and the beacon is then subsequently activated, AMSA - Canberra will notify the Police of the beacons location.
More to follow soon...