Tracker technology additional demands for risk assessment and safeguarding concerns and improved expedition efficiency have resulted in schools, colleges, and Scouts towards using GPS Trackers for Duke of Edinburgh Expeditions (D of E). There are three main types of GPS trackers; Iridium, SPOT, and GSM. Each has different capabilities, and costs of ownership vary considerably.
Iridium tracker technology have become more affordable in recent years, with manufacturers like Yellow Brick and Delorme blazing a trail. Delorme sold out to GPS-leader Garmin, who have improved and expanded on the Delorme models to offer more affordable and technically more sophisticated tracking devices than any other manufacturer.
Trackers that use the Iridium Satellite network benefit from a critical feature than no other GPS tracking network can boast; 100% global coverage. Iridium work at the Poles, The Equator, and even at Sea, worldwide in places where SPOT and other trackers cannot reach. Iridium trackers transmit directly to Iridium satellites, requiring a clear view of the sky to transmit.
Garmin InReach Explorer+ Iridium trackers combine the power of a global GPS tracker with other features. They can provide weather reports and two-way communication via SMS and optional navigation and mapping features. Iridium trackers are the most expensive type of tracker to purchase initially, but if your life depends on it, then there is no other choice.
Inbuilt lithium batteries power Garmin’s Iridium tracker technology. The life of the battery depends entirely on how often the device is used and in what capacity. If the tracker is used only for infrequent updates of location with the screen turned off, the units can last well beyond a week. However, if the screen is used for constant navigation, then you can expect to get only a couple of days to use. More typically, setting the device to update once every 10 minutes with occasional use of the screen, a life of 4-5 days can be expected between charging. The device can be charged from a supplied USB cable, attached to mains power, car-port lighter, power bank, or solar charger.
As well as the global coverage, the capability for two-way communication makes the Garmin InReach devices stand apart from the competition. While SPOT Gen 3 can send only OK or Help pre-set messages to the website or fixed contact list, with Inreach, there is no limitation to the messaging capability or who messages can be sent to. Like the SPOT, the SOS capability can call in help from international rescue service GEOS.
Iridium offers two subscription models; yearly and monthly, on-demand, so you can cancel the subscription and reactivate it whenever you like. SPOT is a yearly contract only and cannot be switched on and off monthly, on-demand. The Garmin pay-monthly subscriptions are more expensive than the pay-yearly. Still, overall, ownership costs are less than a SPOT, in a typical scenario where you perhaps use a tracker for several months of the year, during expedition season.
The standard InReach subscription will allow the device to transmit one location message every 10 minutes. This can be set lower, ultimately changed to once every 2 minutes for an additional annual premium fee.
Iridium trackers natively display their location on Topographical maps, which are far from ideal for D of E Expeditions. D of E expeditions are almost always planned on Ordnance Survey maps, and the students will carry and navigate from those too. As a result, it makes sense to see the tracker location on an Ordnance Survey (OS) map. To show the Iridium tracker location on OS maps, Iridium subscribers must use a third-party expedition-tracking platform who takes the data from the manufacturer website and presents it on a different GPS tracking portal shows all the Ordnance Survey maps, in all ratios. This service will carry an additional monthly fee.
InReach trackers are highly reliable; there is none better for coverage. They must be carefully positioned on top of a bag. They are the most expensive trackers to buy, but they are cheaper than SPOT to operate for Duke of Edinburgh use because the contract can hibernate when not in use. However, because of the high cost of Iridium Trackers, they are rarely used for UK D of E expeditions and usually only reserved for Gold travels abroad. GSM trackers are the favored choice for UK expeditions. GSM tracker use will be discussed in a later article. Hopefully, this article has helped in your decision-making process when hiring or buying a tracker to use a D of E Expedition.