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GPS vs. PLB: Understanding the Difference and Choosing the Right Device
May 8, 2023
When it comes to outdoor activities, safety is always a top priority. In case of emergency situations, having the right device can make all the difference.
Two popular devices used in emergencies are GPS and PLB. While both devices can be valuable tools in different situations, they have significant differences that you should be aware of.
In this article, we will explore the differences between GPS and PLB and help you choose the best device for your needs.
What is GPS?
GPS stands for Global Positioning System, a network of satellites and ground stations that provide location and timing information anywhere on Earth. GPS devices use these satellites to determine your exact location, speed, and direction and can display this information on a screen or transmit it to other devices.
GPS was originally a satellite-based radio navigation system developed for the US Space Force, but the system has now become widely available to the public. GPS devices come in a variety of forms, from handheld devices and watches to smartphones and car navigation systems.
The main advantage of GPS is it can provide real-time location information, allowing you to track your movements and navigate to a specific destination. GPS can also be used to track other people or vehicles, making it a valuable tool for search and rescue operations or law enforcement.
However, GPS does have limitations. It requires a clear line of sight to the sky, meaning that it may not work indoors or in heavily forested or mountainous areas. Additionally, GPS can be affected by interference from other electronic devices or environmental factors such as weather.
Overall, GPS is a powerful tool for location and navigation, but it may not be the best choice for emergency communication and distress signaling.
What is PLB?
PLB stands for Personal Locator Beacon, a device that is specifically designed for emergency communication and distress signaling. PLBs are small, handheld devices that can be activated in an emergency to transmit a distress signal to search and rescue authorities.
PLBs operate on a different frequency than GPS devices and can be detected by search and rescue satellites anywhere in the world. When activated, a PLB will transmit a unique distress signal that identifies the user and their location.
Unlike GPS devices, PLBs do not provide real-time location information or navigation capabilities. However, they are designed to be rugged, waterproof, and long-lasting, with a battery life of up to 24 hours or more.
PLBs are commonly used by hikers, hunters, boaters, and other outdoor enthusiasts who may be traveling in remote or hazardous areas. They are also used by military personnel, pilots, and other professionals who work in high-risk environments.
While GPS and PLB devices may appear similar at first glance, they serve very different purposes. GPS is primarily used for navigation and location tracking, while PLBs are specifically designed for emergency communication and distress signaling.
How Do GPS and PLB Differ?
While GPS and PLB devices both provide location information, they differ in several ways.
Firstly, as mentioned earlier, GPS provides real-time location information and navigation capabilities, while PLBs do not. GPS devices can display your current location on a map, show you the way to a specific destination, and track your movements in real-time. PLBs, on the other hand, are designed solely for emergency communication and distress signaling.
Secondly, GPS devices are dependent on a clear line of sight to the sky. PLBs, on the other hand, can transmit a distress signal from anywhere in the world, regardless of visibility or terrain.
Thirdly, GPS devices are generally less rugged and durable than PLBs, which are designed to withstand extreme weather and harsh environments. GPS devices are often used for navigation purposes, such as hiking or driving, and may not be suitable for use in emergency situations.
Finally, GPS devices require a subscription or access to a cellular network to function, while PLBs do not. This means that in areas without cell coverage, a GPS device may not be able to transmit a distress signal, while a PLB will still be able to do so.
In summary, while GPS and PLB devices may share some similarities in terms of providing location information, they differ significantly in their purpose, functionality, and suitability for emergencies. It's important to understand these differences when choosing between GPS and PLB devices.