Choosing a Beacon

406MHz distress beacons are strongly recommended by New Zealand’s Search and Rescue organisations. These distress beacons are fully integrated into New Zealand’s search and rescue response system, are built to the highest international standards and meet New Zealand/Australian requirements.

There are other commercial satellite tracking and messenger products available, however these are not distress beacons. They are not part of the International Search and Rescue emergency response system, meaning there could be a delay or even no response to your alert. New Zealand’s search and rescue authorities have no control over the systems or performance of these commercial companies.

Choose the right type of beacon

Beacons come with a variety of features for activation in an emergency, although most can be activated manually by pressing a button. When purchasing your beacon, we recommend that it has an in-built global positioning system (GPS) as this will assist in providing an accurate position of your location.

There are three types of 406MHz distress beacons designed for different environments;

  • Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELTs) are designed for use in aircraft and to activate automatically following a crash.
  • Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs) are designed for use in vessels.

Depending on the model, EPIRBs can be activated manually or can activate automatically on contact with water. Some EPIRBs are designed to sit inside a bracket but automatically float free if the vessel sinks.

  • Personal Locator Beacons (PLB) are designed to be carried by individuals or in vehicles, and only activate manually. Different models of PLB have different activation and deployment features, so you should evaluate your needs and the situations you will use it in carefully.

In all cases ensure you know how your beacon works and what is required to test it as per the manufacturer's instructions and operate it in the case of an emergency situation.

Choose a New Zealand coded beacon

Every beacon is coded to its country of origin, and while they can be used worldwide, beacons can only be registered in the country it is coded to.

Your beacon should be a ‘New Zealand coded beacon’ – this includes some Pacific Island nations.

Beware of Australian-coded beacons sold online in New Zealand by ensuring you ask the seller what country the unit is coded for, otherwise you will have to register your beacon in the country of origin. 

  • For more advice on choosing a beacon, visit the Cospas-Sarsat website
  • To find out what country your beacon is coded to, please search here