RECCO streamlines helicopter search and rescue

RECCO takes on helicopter search and rescue

RECCO is well known within skiing and snowboarding circles. For decades, the Swedish company has been supplying ski patrols and rescue agencies with an avalanche rescue system that helps locate buried victims. It is now working on a more versatile, year-round system designed to make helicopter-based search and rescue faster and more efficient.

Made for use in ski resorts and the backcountry, RECCO's avalanche rescue system has a simple, two-part design. RECCO-equipped clothing and gear includes integrated reflectors. Should a skier or snowboarder become trapped in avalanche debris, rescue personnel use a handheld detector to send out a directional radar signal. The reflector bounces that signal back and leads rescuers to the victim. Should the victim be wearing multiple reflectors, the multiple bounce-back signals can help to pinpoint his or her location.

RECCO's avalanche system has a number of nice advantages. It's super-simple, requiring the end user to simply wear a piece of clothing with the RECCO logo on it – there are no batteries, no on/off button and no maintenance. It's designed to have virtually unlimited lifespan and will likely long outlast the garment or gear item containing it.

The avalanche beacon and beacon-equipped ski partner create a more essential avalanche rescue system for backcountry skiing than the rescue agency-operated RECCO system, but RECCO can serve as a secondary tool in backcountry rescue and a primary search tool in situations in which the victim is not carrying a beacon, such as avalanches within ski resort boundaries. There's no guarantee that the wearer will be rescued, or even that the local rescue agency will be using RECCO hardware, but wearing a RECCO garment could be the difference between life or death.

The all-new SAR 1 helicopter search and rescue system expands RECCO technology to a more widespread user base. Designed to be used by search and rescue helicopters, the SAR 1 system has a greater range and can quickly scan 656-ft (200-m)-wide swaths of mountain, forest and water for missing persons. RECCO says that the technology can search an area of 1 sq km (0.4 sq mi) in three to four minutes when flying at speeds of 81 mph (130 km/h). Assuming the victim is wearing a piece of RECCO-equipped clothing, he or she can be located more quickly and easily with this system than with traditional search and rescue methods.

"As this system expands, more people will have a chance to become searchable in more and more areas in the outdoors," says Johan Sauer, VP of RECCO. "It will not prevent accidents and people getting lost, but it can help locate them faster."

While RECCO's avalanche system is a well-known technology used by more than 700 ski resorts and rescue agencies around the world, it's not a universal standard. Not every ski patrol or alpine rescue authority uses it, and most pieces of ski/snowboard outerwear and gear are not equipped with reflectors. The technology is often found on higher spec, higher priced outerwear.

Those shortcomings seem likely to be exacerbated on the SAR 1 side since you have a larger variety of users, clothing styles, and rescue authorities. The SAR 1 can definitely aid in rescue, but it won't be a system that a hiker, climber or kayaker will be able to count on when venturing out into the outdoors. While it could prove invaluable to rescue personnel, many missing persons won't be wearing RECCO-equipped clothing.

RECCO detailed its new SAR 1 system at this month's Outdoor Friedrichshafen show. It has been conducting tests in Sweden, Norway and Switzerland and plans to launch the system in Europe in Summer 2016. It will begin by getting the detectors into the hands of rescue authorities in mountain regions, where RECCO technology was born, then expand out to forest and water environments. Select clothing and gear manufacturers will begin selling RECCO-enabled garments and equipment around that same time.

Source: RECCO AB

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