TRANSYLVANIA COUNTY, NC — Dehydrated, exhausted and lost in the dark in North Carolina’s Pisgah National Forest, a male hiker in his sixties activated his personal locator beacon (PLB) on the night of June 11, 2019 and hoped for the best. Within minutes, the signal from his beacon was transmitted to the Air Force Rescue Coordination Center (AFRCC) and passed along to North Carolina’s Emergency Management. With the temperature dropping dramatically after sunset, every minute exposed to the elements put the hiker at risk.
Scott Justus, Transylvania County’s Assistant Emergency Management Coordinator, was armed with a new life-saving search and rescue device called the Polaris Radio Direction Finder (Polaris RDF). The Polaris RDF is designed specifically for first responders and provides unprecedented mobility and accuracy, narrowing the potential search field from 20 degrees down to five degrees.
Justus said the mission “could not be any more difficult.” Airplanes combing the skies above could “hear” the PLB signal, but couldn’t provide visual assistance. In addition, the hiker was in a nook surrounded by rocky terrain on all sides and his beacon antenna wasn’t pointed at the sky, making the signal weak and inconsistent.
“The Polaris RDF was able to verify the active beacon and triangulate its location from three and half miles away,” Justus said.
His team then took advantage of the mobility of the Polaris RDF, homing in on the signal while approaching it on UTVs (utility task vehicles), leading to the successful rescue of the hiker in under three hours.
“The Polaris performed well in extremely difficult conditions and will be a valuable search and rescue tool, especially for an area like mine with mountains and forested terrain,” Justus said. Transylvania County’s Emergency Management department was granted a Polaris RDF unit via a Walmart Community Grant earlier this year.
For more information, visit polarisrdf.com or call 844-812-7393.
Polaris RDF is a radio detection finder offering government agencies the ability to locate emergency radio beacons quickly and easily. Their radio directional finding technologies are tuned specifically to 121.5 and 406 MHz emergency frequencies, and operate on handheld and drone devices with location mapping.