Dr. John Lawton invented the first effective avalanche transceiver at Cornell Aeronautical Laboratory in Buffalo, New York, This was the first pocket sized transceiver to use high frequency to pick up a signal from a radio receiver. The beacon was developed using an antenna for direction and volume increased to determine the location of the victim. Believe it or not rechargeable batteries were used.
Skadi hit the market in 1971 under the “Skadi” brand name. This unit, functioning at 2.275 kHz and a max range of only 27 metres, pretty awesome for a transceiver that was built in the ’70s.
In the 1970s this transceiver was used effectively by ski rescue organizations and still, today’s modernised transceivers use the same method of radiating a magnetic field by pulsing electricity through copper.
In 1986 frequencies were increased to 457 kHz, this also increased the range to around 50 to 70 metres and is standard for most transceivers in this day and age.
Analog Transceivers were predominant up to 1997 with the F1 from Ortovox a favourite. Here there was only one antenna and the beep got louder as you got closer to your victim.
In 1997 BCA (Backcountry Access ) made the first Digital Transceiver: the famous DTS Tracker. This now became the norm and changed the transceiver market for good. Microprocessors were installed in them for quick search. Still to this day the BCA DTS Tracker only has 1 Antenna.
From the late 1997’s transceivers have evolved massively, from strictly analogue to digital.
Both methods adhere to the international standard and only differ when in search mode.
The original avalanche beacon was analogue beacon’s only, they transmitted a pulse signal to the user as an audible tone.
The audio tone gets louder and louder when the user is closer to the buried victims transmitting the beacon.
These beacons have also been augmented with LEDs that provide a visual indication of signal strength, and earpieces to increase the ability of the listener to hear the tone.
Since the 1970’s digital transceivers took the market by storm and still dominate the market, from LCD User-Friendly Interfaces to Flagging Functions For Multiple Burial and the Ortovox transceivers including Recco Reflector. It’s statically proven that digital transceivers offer a higher victim recovery rate.
Digital transceivers take the strength of the signal and the emitted dipole flux pattern and compute distance and direction to the buried transceiver.
In order to calculate the emitted dipole flux pattern, a digital transceiver must have at least two antennas, although most modern transceivers have three.
The digital beacons will then indicate the direction to the victim’s transceiver as an arrow on the display, and provide audio tones such as varying pitch or frequency.
All Ortovox Beacons come included with a pre-installed Recco reflector.
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