Right from the early stages of the Cospas-Sarsat programme, it was imperative that saving of human lives should be free and non-discriminatory. As a result, there are tripartite agreements between national civil and military administrations (in France, DGAC, the civil aviation authority), data centres and rescue coordination centres. Distress calls are managed according to the country logged in the international database.
Public safety and security are also potentially at stake. Depending on the degree of danger, a boat may be equipped with as many as 10 to 20 beacons, some of which may be concealed and only able to be activated by the captain/pilot or commercial crew.
Types of rescue covered
Maritime rescue may respond to calls from an oil tanker, fishing trawler, commercial or private pleasure boat that has activated its emergency position indicating radio beacon (EPIRB).
Rescue on land responds to calls from personal locator beacons (PLB), whether you’re a mountaineer, taking part in a race like Paris-Dakar, trekking in New Zealand or simply walking near your home.
Emergency locator transmitters (ELT) are used by helicopters and planes. Ultimately, a second-generation ELT currently in the research and development phase aims to enable action before an accident occurs.
Since 1982, the programme has saved 43,522 people on 12,549 rescue operations. Cospas-Sarsat is saving more lives every year, and since a new MEOSAR system entered service at the end of 2016, this number has doubled to 15 to 20 people saved every day.