The coverage area will be much higher due to the deployment of COSPAS-SARSAT solutions already in use elsewhere

On November 18 last year, a distress signal was detected from a yacht 2,000 km south-west of La Réunion, well outside the range of VHF radio and other communications systems.

The Asteria was sinking fast, and its skipper Tapio Lehtinen barely had time to put on his survival suit and jump into his life raft before activating his COSPAS-SARSAT distress beacon.

Within only four minutes, the distress signal had led rescuers to the boat’s location, and Tapio was out of hot water.

The cutting-edge search-and-rescue technology involved in the scenario above is now being deployed in Thailand’s armed forces, sea rescue and other critical services.

The system offers access to ubiquitous COSPAS-SARSAT MEOSAR service beacons to detect and locate distress signals over a radius of 2,500 km centred around Bangkok, mainly using the Galileo satellite positioning system.   

Conventional search-and-rescue solutions rely on six large parabolic antennae to cover an area about the size of one football, and they can receive signals from one satellite per antenna. With the newer technology, Phased Array antennae that take up less than six square meters of space can track up to 30 satellites, significantly enhancing distress beacon detection and expanding coverage to a distance of around 5,000 km.

This solution, already in operation in COSPAS-SARSAT member countries (USA, Canada, France, the European Union, and Togo) is helping to save lives, and also includes delivery of a Mission Control Centre (MCC) dedicated to managing and distributing alerts, and a Rescue Coordination Centre (RCC). A prime contractor in Thailand, Appworks, will be working with Thales Alenia Space to implement the system. According to the latter firm’s Vice President of Navigation, Benoit Broudy: “This is the first contract to deploy our solution in Asia, which is now present on the four continents of the Americas, Europe, Africa and Asia.”