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Press Release
When Law Enforcement and Industry Come Together--Good Things Happen

Price, UT -- A few years ago, Texas Department of Public Safety and San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Department came to me with a problem they had with limited panel space and the need for several radio direction finders. San Bernardino already had the RHOTHETA SAR DF-517 search and rescue radio direction finders and liked them. They knew that it performed at a high level for its designed mission; however, it would only track ELTs, PLBs and EPIRBs. Law enforcement agencies also wanted to track LoJack and ETSTM beacons.


Instrument panel real estate being at a premium mixed with the weight of adding equipment--don’t forget the cost of multiple installations--made it desirable to have one piece of equipment perform several different functions.


In addition to panel space for mounting several different direction finders, room for an antenna farm on the belly of aircraft also plays an important factor. Antennas can interact with each other in a negative way, and they all take up space. The RT-600 antenna is a single monopole antenna making the mounting much easier. The display is a standard 3 1/8” aircraft instrument size.


Armed with the request, I contacted LoJack, ETSTM and latter AeroComputers, all of whom agreed to embark on satisfying our joint customers’ request. All companies agreed that a joint cooperation would benefit all the customers we serve.


The RHOTHETA engineers started work on a law enforcement version of what was known at the time as the SAR DF-517 radio direction finder. After approximately two years of work, the RT-600 / DF-517 was born and operational testing then started. Early test flights showed that the system did what our customers were asking for. Several functions were improved on from the test flight findings and implemented into the final version.


The original SAR DF-517 could decode and track the COSPAS-SARSAT that were in use at the time of its release; however, in the past few years new frequencies have been released for use in 406 MHz emergency beacons. Over all there are 19 different frequencies in the COSPAS-SARSAT frequency plan; consequently, the changes made to the SAR DF-517 included the ability to decode and track all planned emergency frequencies.


Spectrum Management, best known as ETSTM (short for Electronic Tracking Systems®), is the international leader in providing wireless asset tracking and location services and systems. For 25 years the Company has formed unique partnerships with law enforcement, businesses, and communities. In addition, they have served as the leader in electronic tracking technology. Spectrum's promotion of robbery prevention partnerships with community leadership at all levels and has had a significant impact on crime reduction internationally.


Over twenty years ago LoJack Corporation developed their stolen vehicle recovery system which has worked with great success. With LoJack Corporation cooperation, the RT-600 is capable of displaying the LoJack reply code for positive identification of a transmitter being tracked. If there are several LoJack transmitters active at once, an aircrew can select which one they want to track.


When a crime is committed, the law enforcement community has the legal responsibility to respond and bring the bad guys to justice. Both LoJack and ETS TM have provided equipment to help law enforcement do their job with greater efficiency.


In addition to crime fighting, some agencies have an additional task of providing search and rescue services to their respective communities. With the COSPAS-SARSAT system changing from 121.5 MHz to 406 MHz for emergency beacons, the ability to do electronic searches has gotten even better.


Just two years ago if an agency wanted to track ETS, LoJack, and emergency beacons, they would need to equip their aircraft with a different radio direction finder for each of the systems they wanted to track. Now with RHOTHETA’s RT-600, they can track all the different beacons with one piece of equipment.


After the word of the RT-600s abilities got out, customers started asking if it would interface with a moving map system. Mark Gasaway, at AeroComputers, made it happen. Sometimes seeing is believing. As I have had the opportunity to fly with agencies using all four systems tied together, it is easy to see how situational awareness increases tremendously.


While tracking an ETSTM beacon on a training flight with Placer county sheriff’s office in California, Chief Tactical Flight Officer, Ashley Smentek, was able to determine what road the moving vehicle we were tracking was on just by watching the behavior of the signal overlaid on the AeroComputers moving map. Our flight path was changed to intercept the vehicle at a predicted location. When we intercepted the vehicle, Deputy Smentek’s comments were, “this is so cool”. Now that some time has passed and the department has had the opportunity to track actual beacons, other than in training, Deputy Smentek said that the combined system gives them an increased accuracy and definitive means of telling where a signal is coming from.


One of the benefits the RHOTHETA direction finder provides over other systems is accurate, stable direction information. When you fly over a beacon, you know it. It is easy to tell where the beacon is in relationship to the aircraft.


Pilot Matt Murphey, with the Texas Department of Public Safety, told me that they are being able to pin down a stolen vehicle equipped with a LoJack transmitter within 3 to 4 houses. Matt also reports that the stability of the display is one of the best benefits he sees with the RT-600.


Originally, the SAR DF-517 was designed for search and rescue. It was capable of tracking 121.5 MHz, maritime channel 16, 245 MHz, and the two original COSPAS-SARSAT 406 MHz radio frequencies. It could also track other frequencies within the emergency bands. With the introduction of the RT-600 / DF-517, there are now really two models available, the RT-600-A and the RT-600-LE. The RT-600-A is still capable of tracking all that it could before but added the ability to decode and track all 19 COSPAS-SARSAT frequencies. It also has the ability to scan all 19 of the COSPAS-SARSAT. The RT-600-LE has the same ability as the (A) model for 121.5 MHz and 406 MHz beacons; however, the maritime and military frequencies were replaced with LoJack and ETS frequencies.


When it comes to aircraft that the RT-600 or its predecessor the SAR DF-517 has been mounted on, you can find them on a wide variety of rotary wing aircraft. They have been mounted on a number of fixed wing aircraft types including, but not limited to, the Maule, Cessna 172, 182, 206, DO-238, and Cessna Citations.


Anyone that owns a SAR DF-517 can have their system converted to the newer RT-600 version. The antenna housing and display remain the same which makes the conversion simple as far as the customer is concerned. A conversion includes a new 1 year factory warranty.


Lon B. Arnold is the President of RHOTHETA USA, Inc. He has been involved with airborne and ground emergency services for the past 30 years in the capacity of both pilot and vendor. He can be reached at lon.arnold@rhothetaamerica.com or by phone at 435-578-1270.

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