Smartphones to Help Find Avalanche Victims

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Almost every winter people find themselves in many countries trapped after a snow avalanche.

Avalanche on Mt. Everest, 2006 (Wikimedia Commons)
Avalanche on Mt. Everest, 2006 (Wikimedia Commons)

In the search for those buried beneath the snow, every second counts. Now smartphones equipped with functions of an avalanche transceiver should help locate the victims quickly.

According to HLS News Wire any enthusiast of winter sports dreads being overtaken by an avalanche, knowing that there is little chance of freeing oneself once buried beneath the mass of snow — snow that becomes hard as concrete until the buried person can no longer move as much as a finger. The chances of survival dwindle with each passing minute and death by suffocation draws near. On average, rescuers have fifteen minutes to recover victims alive.

A Fraunhofer-Gesellschaft release reports that this is why an avalanche transceiver is an essential piece of kit for anyone spending significant time off-piste. These transceivers do not come cheap, however, ranging in price from €200 and over €500 — perhaps one reason why many walkers and skiers still do not carry one with them.

IHLS – Israel Homeland Security

Soon there could be a new and cheaper alternative to the avalanche transceivers currently on the market. Galileo-LawinenFon, a system being developed by researchers from the Fraunhofer Institute for Material Flow and Logistics IML in Prien, incorporates the transmit and search functions of an avalanche transceiver into a smartphone.

In an emergency situation, these mobile phones can locate buried avalanche transceivers using satellite navigation — and are able to draw on the combined signals of the U.S. GPS, Europe’s Galileo, and Russia’s GLONASS satellite systems to do so.