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Emergency locator beacon

Definition An emergency locator beacon is a device used in the military for emergency situations. It sends out a signal that can be traced back to its location, aiding in search and rescue operations. It is often used when normal communication methods are unavailable or ineffective. Key Takeaways An Emergency Locator Beacon is a specialized […]


An emergency locator beacon is a device used in the military for emergency situations. It sends out a signal that can be traced back to its location, aiding in search and rescue operations. It is often used when normal communication methods are unavailable or ineffective.

Key Takeaways

  1. An Emergency Locator Beacon is a specialized transmitter device that assists in pinpointing the location of aircraft, ships, or individuals in distress. They are designed to send out a signal that helps the rescuers locate those who are in need.
  2. These devices could use satellite technology allowing global coverage. Some models also incorporate GPS functionality, which can provide near-instantaneous transmission of your exact location and identification details to rescue authorities.
  3. The Emergency Locator Beacon is often mandatory equipment in certain types of vessels or aircraft, important for search and rescue missions. However, it is only to be activated in situations of grave and imminent danger.


An Emergency Locator Beacon, also known as Emergency Locator Transmitter, plays a crucial role in military operations and has immense importance due to its ability to emit distress signals during crises.

This advanced technology swiftly provides the exact geographic location of military personnel, vehicles, aircraft or marine vessels, which have encountered severe damage, accidents, or are lost.

By transmitting a signal that can be picked up by satellites or ground-based tracking systems, it enables the rescue and recovery operations by military or emergency services to be more precise and faster, thereby maximizing safety, minimizing potential casualties, and playing a pivotal role in successful search and rescue missions.


Emergency locator beacons are indispensable tools commonly used in military operations for the purpose of location tracking during emergency situations. Their main function is to send out signals that help locate military personnel, vehicles, or aircraft swiftly and accurately.

Should an individual or a unit find themselves lost, stranded, or in distress in unreachable or unfamiliar territories, the activation of an emergency locator beacon enables rapid and efficient identification of their longitude and latitude coordinates. This facilitates speedy response and recovery missions, ensuring the safety and survival of personnel and equipment.

These beacons utilize global positioning systems (GPS) and satellite technology; when activated, they send out distress signals that are picked up by non-geostationary satellites in orbit. The received signals are then processed and relayed to local rescue and emergency services with highly accurate positional information and, in some cases, details about the beacon’s registered owner.

The effectiveness of this lifesaving tool in times of crisis illustrates its vital role in military expeditions and operations, ensuring the wellbeing of soldiers and facilitating successful mission outcomes.

Examples of Emergency locator beacon

Airplane and Shipwreckage: This is the most common use of emergency locator beacons. Aircrafts and ships contain emergency locator beacons which when activated in case of an accident, send out signals indicating their location to help rescue teams find the wreckage more easily. For example, when an Air France Airbus A330 plane crashed over the Atlantic Ocean in 2009, the flight’s emergency locator beacon helped narrow down the search area for the rescue teams.

Wilderness Rescue: Emergency locator beacons are used by hikers, mountaineers, explorers, or any person in remote or high-risk locations to alert search and rescue services in case of an emergency. For instance, in 2007, three climbers stuck on Mount Hood in Oregon activated their emergency locator beacon, which immediately alerted the local rescue services about their location.

Military Operations: Military forces around the world use emergency locator beacons during various operations to ensure the safety of their personnel. For example, military aircrafts and ground troops are often equipped with personal locator beacons. In 1991, during Operation Desert Storm, an American pilot shot down over Iraq was able to successfully activate his emergency locator beacon, which resulted in his quick rescue.

FAQs on Emergency Locator Beacon

What is an Emergency Locator Beacon?

An Emergency Locator Beacon is a portable battery powered device that emits a distress signal. It allows the military and rescue services to swiftly locate personnel in danger. The use of this device is not exclusive to the military, but is regularly used in various forms of aviation, marine and even personal outdoor pursuits.

How does an Emergency Locator Beacon work?

When activated, an Emergency Locator Beacon transmits a distress signal on internationally recognized distress frequencies. This signal is then detected by non-geostationary and geostationary satellites. The signal can then be relayed to a network of local user terminals around the world, where it is processed and passed to the appropriate search and rescue authority.

How do I activate an Emergency Locator Beacon?

Most Emergency Locator Beacons are activated manually by a protected switch. Some beacons installed in vehicles and vessels can also be automatically activated on contact with water or upon detecting a certain impact force.

What should I do if I accidentally activate my Emergency Locator Beacon?

If you accidentally activate your beacon, it’s important to turn it off immediately. Then contact the appropriate authority to inform them of the false alarm. It’s essential that you inform them to prevent unnecessary deployment of search and rescue resources.

How long does the battery last on an Emergency Locator Beacon?

Most Emergency Locator Beacons have a battery life of around five years on standby. Once activated, a beacon should have a minimum operating life of 24 hours in normal conditions.

How often should an Emergency Locator Beacon be tested?

Testing procedures can vary across different models, so always refer to the manufacturer’s instructions. However, as a general rule, it’s wise to test your beacon once a month to unsure it’s functioning properly.

Related Military Operation Terms

  • Distress Signal Transmission
  • Search and Rescue Coordination
  • Geolocation Technology
  • Beacon Activation Process
  • Emergency Response System

Sources for More Information

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