SAR Market

An enthusiastic market

The installed base of GNSS-enabled SAR beacons is currently about 1.3 mln beacons and this is expected to double by 2029. With close to 95,000 units shipped in 2019, increasing to an expected 150,000 units by 2029, and an installed base of approximately 750,000 units, Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs) constitute the largest group of GNSS-enabled search and rescue beacons sold each year. Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRBs) are in second place, with an installed base of 500,000 units, followed by Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELTs) with 100,000 units.

PLBs account for around 60% of the global installed base of GNSS-enabled beacons and despite both Automatic Identification System search and rescue transponders (AIS-SARTs) and Automatic Identification System man overboard (AIS-MOBs) forecast to increase their installed base by a CAGR of 14% over the next year (as opposed to only 2% for PLBs), GNSS-enabled PLBs are expected to continue dominating the global installed base in absolute numbers. 

One reason for this is the growing share of GNSS uptake across PLBs (92% of produced units in 2018) compared to other SAR beacons such as EPIRBs (47%) and ELTs (32%).

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Types of beacons

  • Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons (EPIRB): these beacons are installed on maritime vessels and can be activated either manually or automatically when water pressure caused by a crash, for example, triggers the release. 
  • Emergency Locator Transmitters (ELT): these beacons are installed on aircraft and can be activated either manually or automatically when an unusual deceleration force is detected, such as during a crash or forced landing.
  • Personal Locator Beacons (PLBs): although generally carried by individuals who are out of the range of normal emergency services, they can also be found on ships and airplanes. Capable of being used anywhere, they are activated by manually pressing a button.

Learn more:
ICAO moves to require more aircraft to have ELTs on board by 2021

Updated: May 17, 2021