Flying light airplanes can easily take you outside of cellphone range, especially for pilots who fly in backcountry environments. A forced landing, even if successful, could leave you out of touch and with no good way to call for assistance. That can be deadly if the pilot or a passenger is injured.
As part of the Globalstar satellite network corporate family, a Spot tracking and/or messaging device can be a lifesaver. The company was on display at EAA AirVenture, and Spot expert David Woodard went through the company product line, also explaining the subscription service-plan options.
The Spot Trace (retail price $98) provides simple tracking capability—your contacts will know exactly where you are on the planet. The Spot Trace is also used as an affordable tracking device for inventory and vehicles, making recovering a stolen (or misplaced) car or other vehicle much easier.
The Spot Gen4 ($150), the fourth iteration of the original device that went on the market 15 years ago, can send preprogrammed text messages or emails that include the GPS coordinates of the sender. “Users also have a lifesaving line of communication if the unexpected should happen; Gen4 sends your GPS location to emergency responders with the push of a button,” according to Spot.
The top-of-the-line Spot X ($250) adds two-way messaging with a full QWERTY keyboard. It can also pair with a smartphone via Bluetooth so “users can check in with managers, colleagues, and family, or communicate directly with 24/7 search-and-rescue services,” the company says.
Monthly service plans start at $12 (for 20 messages per month), with unlimited messaging available for $30 per month. Users can also sign up for service on a monthly basis, convenient for those who travel to remote locations occasionally.
Woodard said Spot has recorded more than 9,400 saves in its 15-year history. “That averages out to around two per day,” he said. He also said that Spot is the proprietary participant in the Globalstar satellite network, which he said is superior to the Iridium network used by Spot competitors Garmin and Zoleo. He said Spot emergency devices are available at retail outlets Aircraft Spruce, My Pilot, Banyan Air and Sarasota Avionics.