By Tom Burden
A Satellite Emergency Notification Device (SEND) is a portable emergency notification and locating device that uses commercial satellite systems, rather than the international government-based COSPAS-SARSAT satellite system, to transmit GPS location-based distress, check-in, free-form text and tracking messages. They add social networking and communication capabilities to emergency beacon functions. The SPOT Gen3 Satellite Messenger and inReach SE (Screen Edition) 2-way Satellite Communicator are two examples of SEND units. Participants in activities such as hiking, mountain biking, climbing, boating and flying are typical users of SEND devices.
Individual features vary, and new features are added with new models being introduced, but SEND devices generally allow you to:
inReach Explorer has two-way messaging, a color screen, plus navigation features.
SPOT allows you to send, but not receive messages. Red or green blinking lights inform you if your message was attempted. SPOT tries three times to reach the satellite network (when you’re successful, your contacts only receive the message once). Delorme inReach offers two-way messaging with delivery confirmation to ensure that the message was successfully sent.
SPOT Gen3 lets you customize messages at home on your computer, and send these pre-programmed messages using the Check-in/OK function. You can create custom messages of up to 41 characters, plus pre-programmed 120-character messages using the SPOT Connect, pairing with your smartphone via Bluetooth wireless technology. The DeLorme inReach products provide two types of text messaging—pre-programmed (preset) 160-character text messages to email and cellphone contacts, plus a virtual QWERTY keyboard for two-way on-the-fly 160 character text messaging to email addresses or cellphones. Both inReach models can be paired with smartphones or tablets via the "Earthmate" App to enhance text messaging capabilities.
In addition to the messaging, tracking and SOS capabilities, users of the inReach Explorer Satellite Communicator can view, create or navigate routes and waypoints. An easy-to-follow map view displays routes, waypoints, tracks and messages geo-located onscreen for backtracking or self-rescue. The built-in digital compass, barometric altimeter and accelerometer sensors provide heading and bearing information, accurate elevation readings, speed and other useful trip statistics. You can plan your routes and waypoints ahead of time using the DeLorme Explore portal and share your trip details with family and friends to follow on the private Mapshare webpage. The DeLorme Earthmate app also lets you download free topographic maps and U.S NOAA charts to your smartphone or tablet, which connects wirelessly with the inReach device for real-time point-to-point navigation.
SPOT uses the Globalstar satellite system. SPOT’s continental/coastal coverage includes virtually all of the continental United States, Canada, Mexico, Europe and Australia, portions of South America, Northern Africa, and North-Eastern Asia and hundreds or thousands of miles offshore of these areas. See their coverage map at findmespot.com. The inReach device operates using Iridium, with global coverage and across all oceans.
SPOT’s basic annual subscription plan costs $99.99 per year. Type & Send custom messaging adds $49.99 for a 500-message bundle. Tracking is $49.99 per year. There are a range of other services including SPOT Assist Maritime with BoatUS for $10 per year.
DeLorme offers two types of subscription plans annual 12-month contracts with lower monthly fees or their new "Freedom Plans", which require only a 30-day commitment. Billing occurs monthly with all plans. Subscriptions start as low as $11.95 per month for annual contracts and $14.95 per month for no-contract Freedom plans. Unlimited data plans on inReach start as low as $49.95 per month. In addition, BoatUS subscriptions and GEOS Search & Rescue Benefit insurance plans can also be purchased separately. Additional details on service pricing can be found at delorme.com.