New SAR satellites to cut response time

New SAR satellites to cut response time

Search and rescue (SAR) teams hope new satellite technology will save them time, money and lives.

The taxpayer-funded project will go live next year, allowing rescuers to get to crash sites faster.

They are shielded from view by giant domes, but officials insist there's nothing top-secret about the satellite dishes situated on farmland in Bay of Plenty – their job is to save lives.

Keith Manch, Maritime NZ director, says the new satellites work by receiving messages when somebody sets off a beacon if they're lost at sea or on land.

Six dishes make up the station. They have a bigger range than before and can pick up emergency locator beacon signals in even the most difficult terrain.

"There have been cases in the past where delays have resulted in at least injuries being worse, or lives being lost," says SAR helicopter pilot John Funnell. "This will make a huge difference to the response time."

Michael Erceg died after his helicopter went down in bush near Raglan in 2005. Mr Funnell was part of that rescue team.

He says although this technology wouldn't have saved Mr Erceg, who died on impact, his body would've been found much sooner.

"It was a search that ran for two weeks. That would've been shortened considerably had the information from that accident been transmitted through."

The new station cost more than $7 million to build – small change compared to the lives that could be saved, once it's launched in the middle of next year.

3 News

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