An Evolving Market
There are more than 151,000 PLBs registered in America, but there should be many times that number in use. One of the reasons more people don't use them is the cost. A GPS-equipped PLB retails for about $650. And when the battery pack runs down, the owner must ship the unit to a service center and pay a fee to have it recharged. All this for only one, albeit important, function--to send a distress signal and call for rescue.
But a new player has made an appearance in the satellite-rescue-systems field, and its unit features not only a significantly lower price, but additional modes of operation as well. The unit I carry is called SPOT (findmespot.com), and is designated as a satellite personal tracker (also referred to as a satellite messenger), rather than a PLB. The SPOT doesn't employ the COSPAS-SARSAT system, but communicates through the GEOS International satellite system for worldwide coverage. Even so, a call for rescue follows the same process--alerting a ground control center that relays the distress signal and GPS coordinates to local search-and-rescue organizations.