The National Search and Rescue Secretariat
406 megahertz (MHz) Personal Locator Beacon
Table of contents
- 1.0 Scope
- 1.1 Personal Locator Beacons in Canada
- 1.2 System overview
- 1.3 Purpose and Intended Use
- 1.4 Types of Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs)
- 1.5 Applicable Specifications, Standards, Regulations and Reference Documents
- 1.6 Technical Acceptance Certification
- 1.7 Interpretation of this Document
- 2.0 Design Characteristics
- 3.0 Test Requirements
- 4.0 Quality Control
- List of Acronyms
This document is for beacon manufacturers seeking to market and sell 406 megahertz (MHz) Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) in Canada.
1.1 Personal Locator Beacons in Canada
This document contains the minimum requirements for the functional and technical performance of Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) operating in the 406.0 to 406.1 megahertz (MHz) band through low earth polar-orbiting, medium earth orbiting and geostationary satellite systemsFootnote 1, to obtain a Letter of Recommendation for Approval (LRA) from the National Search and Rescue Secretariat (NSS), Public Safety Canada.
As per Radio Standard Specification 287 (RSS-287), Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRB), Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELT), Personal Locator Beacons (PLB), and Maritime Survivor Locator Devices (MSLD), Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED), a recommendation by the NSS is a requirement of the certification process. A 406 MHz PLB designed and manufactured to the standards contained in this document meets the PLB requirements developed and implemented by the Cospas-SarsatFootnote 2 Partners (Canada, France, the Russian Federation, and the United States), as well as the environmental and documentation requirements considered necessary for PLB use in Canada.
1.2 System overview
Begun as a joint effort of Canada, France, the United States, and Russia in 1979, Cospas-Sarsat is an international system that uses Low-Earth Orbiting Search and Rescue (LEOSAR) satellites; Geostationary Orbiting Search and Rescue (GEOSAR) Satellites; and Medium-Altitude Earth Orbiting Search and Rescue (MEOSAR) Satellites to assist in detecting and locating activated 406 MHz satellite beacons. Canada contributes Search and Rescue Repeaters (SARRs) which receive and retransmit 406 MHz signals anytime a satellite is in view of a ground station. These payloads, along with the Search and Rescue Processors (SARPs) provided by France, are carried aboard environmental satellites provided by the United States. 406 MHz repeater payloads are now also being deployed on Global Navigation Satellite Systems (GNSS) such as Galileo, Glonass and GPS in medium-altitude earth orbits. The COSPAS, SARSAT and GNSS Systems are fully interoperable.
Satellite receiver/processors receive distress signals from PLBs transmitting in the 406.0 – 406.1 MHz frequency band. The use of the band is limited by the International Telecommunications Union (ITU) Radio Regulations, Article 5 (Table of Allocations) to low-power satellite EPIRBsFootnote 3, which include those that are being used with the COSPAS and SARSAT satellite receiver/processors. The Cospas-Sarsat 406 MHz PLB signal consists of a transmission of unmodulated carrier signal followed by a digital message format that provides identification data, nationality, and (optionally) encoded position data.
Because many search and rescue forces are currently not equipped to home on the 406 MHz PLB signal, homing must be accomplished using another frequency. This document provides for the mandatory inclusion of an auxiliary radio-locating device operating at 121.5 MHzFootnote 4 and an optional Automatic Identification System (AIS) transmitter operating in the maritime VHF frequency band.
Local User Terminals (LUTs) process the 406 MHz signal and determine the location of the PLB; the LUT then relays the position of the distress to a Mission Control Center (MCC), specifically the Canadian Mission Control Center (CMCC), located at CFB Trenton when detected in Canada. The distress alert and location information is then immediately forwarded to the closest Canadian Joint-Rescue Center (JRCC), and if necessary Marine Rescue Sub-Center (MRSC), who are responsible for coordinating the Search and Rescue (SAR) response to air and marine incidents within their respective Search and Rescue Regions (SRR). In Canada, we have CMCC/JRCC CFB Trenton, JRCC Halifax, JRCC Victoria, MRSC St. John's and the MRSC Québec
1.3 Purpose and Intended Use
PLBs are intended to provide individuals in remote areas with a means to alert the authorities of an emergency situation requiring immediate assistance. The purpose of the PLB is to both notify and guide search and rescue personnel to the location of individuals in need, by way of the transmitting beacon. The PLB consists of a transmitter, an internal GPS/GNSS receiver and a battery power source, all contained in an impact resistant watertight case. PLBs are envisioned to be used in two general environments, areas with water (e.g. rivers, lakes, oceans, seas, flooding) and areas without significant water (e.g. deserts, mountains). Therefore, this document includes two categories of PLBs, Category 1 which must float and Category 2 which is not required to float.
1.4 Types of Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs)
406 MHz PLBs are divided into two generations, two categories, three classes and three groups as defined below.
There are two generations of 406 MHz PLBs.
- First Generation Beacons (FGBs) and
- Second Generation Beacons (SGBs) – Under development but not yet approved for use in Canada.
This document addresses First Generation Beacons (FGBs) that are designed to comply with the Specification for Cospas-Sarsat 406 MHz Distress Beacons, C/S T.001 and are tested and approved to the Cospas-Sarsat 406 MHz Distress Beacon Type Approval Standard, C/S T.007.
There are two categories of PLBs:
- Category 1 PLBs are designed for use in and around water (but in some circumstances can also be used on land) and must floatFootnote 5: and
- Category 2 PLBs are designed principally for use on land (but in some circumstances can also be used in and around water) and are not required to float.
There are three classes of PLBs:
- Class 0 PLBs are designed for use in extreme climatic conditions and must operate over a temperature range of -55°C to + 70 C;
- Class 1 PLBs are designed for use in arduous climatic conditions and must operate over a temperature range of -40°C to + 55 C; and
- Class 2 PLBs are designed for use in less arduous climatic conditions and must operate over a temperature range of -20°C to + 55°C.
There are three groups of PLBs:
- Group 1 PLBs include a 121.5 MHz homing transmitter
- Group 2 PLBs – not in use at this time
- Group 3 PLBs include a 121.5 MHz homing transmitter and an AIS transmitter
1.4.5 GNSS Navigation Devices
In Canada, GNSS is only required for Return Link Service (RLS) enabled PLBs, however all types of PLBs designed to include beacon position data, obtained from a GNSS navigation device internal to the PLB shall comply with the applicable requirements in section 1.5.
1.5 Applicable Specifications, Standards, Regulations and Reference Documents
For dated references, only the edition cited applies. For undated references, the latest edition of the referenced document (including any amendments) applies;
1.5.1 Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
- Standards Specification (RSS) 287, [Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons, Emergency Locator Transmitters, Personal Locator Beacons and Maritime Survivor Locator Devices (MSLD)];
- RSS-Gen, General Requirements for Compliance of Radio Apparatus;
- Radio Standards Procedure (RSP) 100, "Certification of Radio Apparatus and Broadcasting Equipment";
- Telecommunications Regulation Circular (TRC) 49: "Telecommunications and Radio Equipment Service Fees of the Certification and Engineering Bureau". The current versions of these documents are available on the Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada website;
- RSS-182 — Maritime Radio Equipment Operating in the 156-162.5 MHz Band (AIS enabled PLB's);
- Canada's Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act.
1.5.2 Cospas-Sarsat Program Documents
- Specification for Cospas-Sarsat 406 MHz Distress Beacons, C/S, T.001;
- Cospas-Sarsat 406 MHz Distress Beacon Type Approval Standard T.007;
- Handbook of Beacon Regulations C/S S.007 CAN;
- Cospas-Sarsat Acceptance of 406 MHz Beacon Type Approval Test Facilities C/S T.008.
1.5.3 Reference Documents
- National Search and Rescue Secretariat (NSS) Performance Document 406MHz Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), NSS-PLB, Issue 7, dated April 2022;
- Radio Technical Commission for Maritime Services (RTCM) Standard, RTCM 11010.3, for 406 MHZ Satellite Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs), and all its annexes, published June 25, 2018.
1.6 Technical Acceptance Certification
PLBs shall comply with the standards set forth in this document at 1.5.1 and 1.5.2 and 1.5.3 and as required by Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada (ISED). Information regarding the ISED type approval process can be obtained on the web site or at the following address:
Certification and Engineering Bureau
Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
3701 Carling Avenue (Building 94)
P.O. Box 11490, Station H
Ottawa, Ontario K2H 8S2
Contact the certification bureau for all certification related questions.
Contact the radio standards for all standard related questions.
General contact information for Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada.
Telephone (Ottawa): 613-990-4218 / Facsimile: 613-990-4752
1.7 Interpretation of this Document
If there is variation between this document and the documents described in paragraphs 1.5, the more stringent specification shall apply.
2.0 Design Characteristics
2.1 Cospas-Sarsat Type Approval Requirements
To ensure PLB compatibility with Cospas-Sarsat receiving and processing equipment, PLBs shall meet all requirements specified in the documents identified in paragraph 1.5.2. and;
The coding for PLBs shall be Serial User Protocol, using the Cospas-Sarsat type approval certificate number as specified in C/S T.001 and C/S S.007 CAN for PLBs with no encoded position data. For Location Protocol PLBs, the coding shall be RLS Location Protocol for PLBs with Return Link Service (RLS) –Type 1 Acknowledge, or Standard Location Protocol for all other Location Protocol PLBs as specified in C/S T.001 and C/S S.007 CAN and use the Cospas-Sarsat type approval certificate number.
2.2 Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Radio Standards Requirements
PLBs must comply with all the requirements specified in the documents identified in paragraph 1.5.1, 1.5.2 and any other standards deemed applicable by ISED.
2.3 National Search and Rescue Secretariat (NSS) Document Requirements
PLBs must comply with all the requirements specified in the documents identified in paragraphs 1.5.2, and 1.5.3 where applicableFootnote 6.
The label shall comply with ISED requirements of RSS 287 and the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act, Cospas-Sarsat System document C/S T.001 and RTCM 11010.3, Section 4.5, as it applies to Canada.
The following warning text shall satisfy the warning label requirements as specified in RTCM 11010.3, section 4.5, part (c):
DO NOT MOVE IF FOUND, REPORT TO POLICE
NE PAS DÉPLACER SI TROUVÉ, SIGNALER À LA POLICE
In the event that labelling requirements cannot be met because of the size of the PLB, the NSS may alter certain requirements on request from the manufacturer.
2.3.2 Required Documentation
The documentation shall comply with ISED requirements of RSS 287 and the Consumer Packaging and Labelling Act, Cospas-Sarsat System document C/S T.001 and RTCM 11010.3, Section 4.5, as it applies to Canada.
Should ISED issue a Technical Acceptance Certificate for the PLB to the applicant, the latter shall also provide:
- A uniquely imprinted user registration form, double sided in French and English, available at https://www.cbr-rcb.ca/cbr/ from the Canadian Beacon Registry (CBR), with a right justified hexa-decimal representation of bits 26 to 85 of the beacon digital message coding, to accompany each PLB at the point of sale;
- Prepaid self-addressed envelopes to be used by the purchaser for the transmittal of each registration form shall be provided to the successful applicant by the Canadian Beacon Registry (CBR). for inclusion with each beacon;
- An operation manual, detailing the proper use and maintenance of the PLB, for inclusion with each beacon.
3.0 Test Requirements
3.1 Cospas-Sarsat Requirements
The Cospas-Sarsat technical specifications detailed in C/S T.001 shall be verified in accordance with the type approval standards in C/S T.007 by an accepted test facility in accordance with C/S T.008.
3.2 Innovation, Science and Economic Development (ISED) Requirements
The ISED requirements for Technical Acceptance are detailed in documents RSS-182 and RSS 287. All applicable tests are to be performed and the results approved by ISED.
3.3 National Search and Rescue Secretariat (NSS) Document Requirements
All tests for PLBs shall be carried out by a Cospas-Sarsat accredited test facility accepted by the National Search and Rescue Secretariat (NSS), Public Safety Canada, and shall be tested in accordance with the documents identified in paragraph 1.5.2, and 1.5.3. All applicable tests are to be performed and passed.
4.0 Quality Control
The PLB may be inactive for long periods of time while being exposed to adverse environmental conditions and yet must function properly when activated. The choice of materials used and the manufacturing process are key elements in ensuring its durability, and safety for Canadians.
Failure to meet appropriate standards could result in a recommendation to ISED to review the Technical Acceptance Certificate. If the PLB does not meet the required specifications, ISED may, in consultation with the NSS, declare that the device's Technical Acceptance Certificate be null and void and require that beacons in service be recalled, action be taken to correct the areas of non-compliance and the beacon be retested to have certification reinstated.
The Technical Acceptance Certification holder shall notify ISED and the NSS immediately of proposed modifications made to the PLB. Full technical details shall be submitted so that any type approval retesting requirements can be identified.
List of Acronyms
- Automatic Identification System
- Canadian Beacon Registry
- Canadian Forces Base
- Canadian Mission Control
- Cosmicheskaya Sistyema Poiska Avariynych Sudov (Russian Federation)
- Emergency Locator Transmitter (Aircraft)
- Emergency Positioning Radio Beacon (Marine vessel)
- First Generation Beacon
- Geostationary Orbiting Search and Rescue
- Global Navigation Satellite System (Russian Federation)
- Global Navigation Satellite System (International Multi-Constellation)
- Global Positioning System (North American)
- Department of Innovation, Science and Economic Development Canada
- International Telecommunications Union
- Canadian Joint-Rescue Center
- Low-Earth Orbiting Search and Rescue
- Letter of Recommendation for Approval
- Local User Terminal
- Mission Control Center
- Medium-Earth Orbiting Search and Rescue
- Marine Rescue Sub-Center
- Maritime Survivor Locator Device
- National Search and Rescue Secretariat, Public Safety Canada
- Personal Locator Beacon
- Return Link Service
- Radio Standards Procedure
- Radio Standards Specification
- Radio Technical Commission for Maritime Services
- Search and Rescue
- Search and Rescue Processor
- Search and Rescue Repeater
- Search and Rescue Satellite-Aided Tracking (Canada, France, and United States)
- Second Generation Beacon
- Search and Rescue Region
- Telecommunications Regulation Circular
- Date modified: