GME MT610G personal locator beacon review
Image: GME.

GME MT610G personal locator beacon review: a travel essential

We love the convenience of Uber that we effectively push a button, and our ride finds us and picks us up. Now, consider you are in trouble, have no phone coverage, are remote, and no one knows exactly where you are. A personal locator beacon (PLB) can summon emergency services to your exact location anywhere in the world. One such example is GME MT610G, an essential device for travelling in remote regions.

You may not ever use it, but you’ll be glad to have one on hand if an emergency strikes.

GME MT610G personal locator beacon review

What is a PLB?

A PLB is a lifesaver in a small, handheld device. It’s designed for outdoor adventurers like hikers, boaters, campers, or anyone venturing into remote areas.

GME MT610G personal locator beacon
Image: Angus Jones.

Here’s the key: If you run into a serious emergency, like a bad injury or getting lost with no mobile service, you can activate the PLB. This sends a special distress signal on a satellite frequency that search and rescue teams worldwide can detect. Think of it as a GPS SOS button.

Most PLBs also include built-in GPS technology. This means the rescuers know you need help and can find you quickly, using your exact location. The faster they find you, the faster you get help.

PLBs are small and lightweight, so you can easily carry them on your backpack or life vest.  They’re built to be tough and waterproof to survive the elements.  In short, they give you peace of mind whenever you’re exploring off the beaten path.

How does a PLB work?

When you first purchase a PLB, you must register it with the Australian Maritime Safety Authority, regardless of whether you will use it on land.

Image: Australian Maritime Safety Authority.

Here’s what happens when you activate a PLB:

  1. Activation: PLBs are triggered manually by pressing a button. The beacon’s antenna must be deployed and pointed towards the sky for the signal to be transmitted effectively.
  2. Signal transmission: Once activated, the PLB transmits a distress signal on the 406 MHz band. This frequency is specifically reserved for distress beacons, ensuring minimal interference.
  3. Satellites pick up the signal: A network of COSPAS-SARSAT satellites circles the Earth, designed to detect these distress signals from PLBs. These satellites can pick up the signal from anywhere on Earth, regardless of your location.
  4. Relaying the message: The satellites don’t directly contact rescue teams. Instead, they relay the distress signal, which includes your PLB’s unique identification code and your location (if your PLB has GPS), to a local Search and Rescue (SAR) centre. In Australia, the Joint Rescue Coordination Centre (JRCC) is in Canberra. The Australian Maritime Safety Authority operates the JRCC.
  5. Rescue efforts initiated: Search and rescue authorities at JRCC receive the information from the satellite and can identify your beacon and pinpoint your location. They then initiate a rescue mission to get you help.

What information is required when registering a PLB?

A PLB is not a two-way communication device. It sends a SOS and a position.

For the authorities to respond, they need to know who they are looking for and how you might be using the PLB.

The information you need to provide:

  • PLB number and brand
  • Your contact details
  • A description of the most likely use of PLB, including boating, hiking, four-wheel driving, flying in an aircraft, etc.

Not all info is compulsory, but the more you provide, the more it helps the authorities if you activate the SOS.

Below are the required details if registering for a Vehicle.

As part of the registration process, you acknowledge that:

  • The Australian Maritime Safety Authority (AMSA) may use the information that I am providing as part of this registration for search and rescue purposes
  • My personal information may also be shared with other agencies, entities or individuals for search and rescue purposes
  • AMSA does not warrant the reliability or security of the correspondence method that I choose for receiving communications from AMSA
  • AMSA does not accept liability for any loss, damage, cost or expense that I incur if I provide incorrect details or fail to update my details in a timely way

You also agree that your data is collected for use in an emergency and that you will update the information if it changes and report if the beacon is lost, stolen, or disposed of.

Why not just use a smartphone?

Phones aren’t necessarily the best method of emergency communication. While you can improve a phone’s coverage using booster technology, it’s not a foolproof method.

Even if you have mobile coverage, your phone might be damaged by water, have a flat battery, or be otherwise out of action.

A PLB, on the other hand, is a robust, dedicated device that is always ready to be used when required. Just last year, two bushwalkers were safely found in remote Tasmania after activating a PLB.

GME MT610G PLB features explained

The GME MT610G PLB is a pocketable, waterproof, floating GPS-enabled personal locator beacon that can send out a distress signal.

Image: GME.

Not only is GME an Australian company, but it also manufactures the MT610G in Australia.

The unit includes a strobe light, a 72-channel GPS receiver (which quickly acquires your location), and a 121.5MHz Homing transmitter. Rescuers will receive your location and then can find you using a radio-homing device and see your strobe light at night.

The MT610G is IP68, with GME quoting it will survive for 60 minutes at a depth of 10 metres, but being positively buoyant, it is unlikely to leave the water surface if unattached. Once activated, the battery will continue operating for at least 24 hours.

GME MT610G PLB specifications

GPS:72-channel GPS /Galileo receiver
Satellite  Cospas-Sarsat Certified (Class 2)
Dimensions9 x 7 x 4 cm
Price (RRP)From $395
WebsiteGME
Weight160 grams
WarrantySix years
  

Using the GME MT610G

The GME is small enough to put in your pocket, or the optional bright yellow carry case with a carabiner. Its small size and weight means you can always carry it when adventuring.

Let’s face it: I hope I never activate a PLB. There is no penalty for falsely activating a PLB in Australia, but when the rescue helicopter hovers over your campsite, it may ask for a donation to cover the cost of its fuel.

The GME does, however, have a test routine for both the unit and the GPS that gives you peace of mind that the unit is operating correctly. It is advised that you only test the GPS twice a year, as it drains the battery and affects the device’s useful life.

The procedure is pretty simple, and there is no need to be concerned when you release the antenna that activates the SOS function. Two buttons are exposed, with the green button used for testing and the red button activating the SOS.

GME MT610G buttons
Image: Angus Jones.

Each PLB has a use-by date. GME can install a new battery when it expires; otherwise, the battery must be removed at its disposal to ensure no false activations.

Who is the GME MT610G for?

PLBs like the GME MT610G are a critical tool for hikers, boaters, campers, and anyone venturing into areas where traditional communication methods might be unavailable.

Remember, PLBs are for life-threatening emergencies only.

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GME MT610G personal locator beacon
Features
9
Value for Money
9
Performance
10
Ease of use
9
Design
9
Positives
Always ready to be activated in an emergency
Highly portable
Warranty matches its useful life
Negatives
No two-way communication (Not a PLB feature today)
9.2