McMurdo beacons work well when re-tested

PORTSMOUTH, U.K. – Two emergency beacons manufactured by McMurdo Ltd. have turned in “outstanding performance results,” after earlier tests had raised doubts about their reliability, according to a McMurdo press release yesterday afternoon.

The new tests were conducted on the company’s upgraded FastFind Plus PLB and Precision EPIRB products, and were designed to replicate the earlier Equipped to Survive Foundation tests as closely as possible.

Tests conducted this spring by the ESF found that both products “failed to reliably acquire a GPS location ‘fix’ under operational ‘real-world conditions,” ESF founder Jack Ritter said at the time.

McMurdo said its tests also incorporated the pre-upgraded products that were the subject of the original ESF tests. The PLB land tests took place on the sites of the original study in Santa Cruz, Calif., while the EPIRB and PLB marine tests took place under “very similar conditions, but in U.K. waters,” McMurdo said.

Peter Forey, an international expert in the field of 406 MHz beacons and managing director of Sartech Engineering Ltd., acted as an independent witness during the tests, McMurdo said. Those present “observed significantly superior product performance compared to that reported by Equipped to Survive,” according to the McMurdo release.

“All the updated beacons performed faultlessly, acquiring and transmitting an accurate GPS location within a few minutes, even under adverse conditions,” Forey said in the McMurdo release.

McMurdo said a representative from boating retailer West Marine, which supported the original ESF tests, was also present at the land tests in California.

“Under severe forest canopy and canyon obscuration, the improved beacons worked reliably in the trials,” said Chuck Hawley, vice president of Product Development at West Marine. “The performance of the upgraded FastFind Plus products improved dramatically. The tests highlighted the difficulty in testing GPS-based products in a forest environment due to the periodic variability in satellite coverage.”

PLB results

The FastFind Plus PLBs were tested under 11 scenarios ranging from expansive sky views to a small forest clearing and in a life raft. The average time to achieve a GPS “fix” was 1:28 minutes. The average time for the PLB to transmit a position signal was 3:08 minutes.

In every case where GPS functionality was originally demonstrated, the McMurdo PLB successfully acquired and transmitted GPS position, McMurdo said.

EPIRB results

The Precision EPIRB (G4) was tested under seven scenarios ranging from expansive sky views to operation at sea in simulated rainfall and in a life raft. The average time to achieve a GPS “fix” was 1:48 minutes. The average time for the EPIRB to transmit a position signal was 3:21 minutes. In every case the EPIRB successfully acquired and transmitted GPS position, even under arduous marine conditions, according to the release.

“We know that our customers may have been concerned by reports resulting from the original trials, we shared this concern and made the decision to initiate an upgrade” said Gary Mullins, managing director of McMurdo. “We are delighted with these results. We have proven beyond any doubt the reliability of the industry-standard 406 MHz COSPAS-SARSAT distress system and the benefits of integral GPS functionality.”

McMurdo said its upgrade is free of charge and available to all FastFind Plus customers, who the company is in the process of contacting. The upgrade for the Precision and G4 EPIRBs will be available in August and McMurdo said it would be contacting those customers at that time. Customers can contact in the U.K. on +44 (0) 2392 623978, or in the U.S. at 1-800-576-2605 to arrange for the upgrade.

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