Press release -

Maritime And Coastguard Agency: Her Majesty’s Coastguard now has 40,000 emergency beacons on its register

The UK 406 EPIRB Registry based at MRCC Falmouth reached a new milestone this month by registering their 40,000th beacon, meaning the database has doubled in size in three years.

The team has worked tirelessly to provide good customer service and maintain operationally valid records and as such the Registry is well respected throughout the SAR world.

The importance of the 406 MHZ beacon was highlighted by the safe rescue of four people from the Yacht Hollinsclough in the deep Southern Atlantic recently. The vessel had two correctly registered beacons which supplied key data to both national and international search and rescue authorities.

Steve Huxley, SAR Communications Manager said:

If you are a boat owner, consider buying an emergency beacon as part of the life- saving equipment fit to your vessel.

Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons have proved many times that they have contributed to the saving of lives.

Do not be without one.

Notes to Editors

What happens when I activate my beacon?

1.    User activates beacon

There are three main types of beacons, EPIRBs (for use in the maritime environment), ELTs (aviation) and PLBs (personal locator beacons).  These can further be subdivided into those that provide a GPS position (location protocol) and those that do not have this capability.

2.    Satellite detects the beacon

Your 406 MHZ beacon signal will be received by two types of Cospas-Sarsat satellites.  A GEO satellite will detect your beacon nearly immediately.  Some wait time, dependent on latitude, may be associated with detection by a LEO satellite.

3.    Beacon signal is transferred from satellite to LUT

Your beacon signal will be received by two types of Local User Terminals (LUTs).

One or more GEOLUTs will nearly immediately receive your beacon’s signal but can only locate your beacon if a GNSS (GPS-type) position is encoded in the beacon’s message.  Beacon registration information is critical to efficient Search and Rescue operations if no position is provided in the beacon coding.

LEOLUTs use Doppler information to calculate the beacon’s position.  Processing the SARP channel 2400 bps data is relatively straightforward since the Doppler frequency is measured and time-tagged onboard the spacecraft. All 406 MHZ beacon data received from the satellite memory on each pass can be processed within a few minutes of pass completion.

LUTs are also able to provide unique identification information associated with the beacon (Hexadecimal identifier, or Hex ID), which allows the distress alert to be linked to owner specific information in a beacon registration database.

4.    LUT transfers the beacon message and location data to its associated MCC

MCCs have been established in most countries operating at least one LUT. Their main functions are to:

collect, store and sort the data from LUTs and other MCCs;

provide data exchange within the Cospas-Sarsat System; and

distribute alert and location date to associated Rescue Coordination Centres (RCCs)

or Search and Rescue Points of Contact (SPOCs)

5.    The MCC transfers the Cospas-Sarsat alert message to two places:

the MCC associated with the beacon owner’s country (encoded in the beacon message);  and

the MCC associated with the geographic region where the beacon was detected.

6.    These MCC transfer the distress alert to the SPOCs, who look up the beacon’s registration information in the appropriate database and obtain emergency contact and other important information; and coordinate search and rescue activities, if required.


NDS Enquiries
Phone: For enquiries please contact the above department


  • Government


  • steve huxley
  • sar communications manager