While at our monthly Ham Radio club meeting, a previous & newly re-licensed Ham visited our meeting and asked us for input and help on finding info for his “Project LifeSaver” tracking unit. Project LifeSaver is a small, wearable, weatherproof radio beacon that sends a signal to help Police & Rescue agencies locate missing people, such as Alzheimer’s, Autism, and Down syndrome patients.
He wanted to know more about how it his unit works and how it can be tracked. His unit was made by LoJack, the same company who does the vehicle tracking systems.
Del, (WB8FYR) used his Yaesu VX-7 HT and found the unit transmitting on 216.4Mhz. He had it in WFM mode. It was emitting a static sound, about once a second. He wasnt sure is the 216.4 was the exact freq, but it was close.
What I found out:
Each unit operated in the 215-216 Mhz range, on FM.
Battery life is 30+ days and is replaced monthly by maintenance person.
There are no external markings on the unit, so I couldn’t find a FCC ID on it. There may be something printed inside the battery cover.
- These are small enough to be wearable 24/7.
- Battery life is good. 1 month run-time will keep them from needing new batteries often.
- Each unit has its own freq, making it easier to track down the correct person.
- Each unit has its own freq. (I know this contradicts with the pros section, but you have to know the correct freq on the person you are looking for. If you have to scan a range of freqs, it will be harder to find, especially when the unit is out of radio range.)
- Receivers are generally limited to Police & Rescue agencies and cost $700+
- Range is limited, but this is due to low TX power, to save battery life.
- No data is transmitted, just a audio beep. Medical info could be handy if it was encoded in the transmission.
I think that this is something that all Ham Radio groups and Search & Rescue needs to get involved in. As Hams, most of us have a radio or scanner that can receive these freqs. We can easily build a tape measure yagi antenna and have it ready. With having more than one receiver and person searching for the missing person, it can greatly reduce the time to find them. This will also greatly help the bond between Public Safety and Ham Radio, as it proves that our skills, knowledge and equipment can come in handy, in life saving emergencies.
This basic skill is the same thing as fox hunts. Lots of clubs already do these for fun, why not put it to a good use and help save someone or find a missing person.