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Our R&D in Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) solutions: An investment into passengers' safety

Precision and time of localisation can be life-saving factors, when it comes to tracking an aircraft after a flight abnormality.

To further improve safety standards, ECA GROUP is developing future Emergency Locator Transmitter (ELT) solutions that can track aircraft with greater precision and in less time.

ECA GROUP has been able to develop its fourth generation safety beacon within two projects, initiated by the run by Horizon 2020, the EU’s biggest Research and Innovation programme. As active member of the two projects GRICAS and GRIMASSE, ECA GROUP was able to prove the feasibility of the newly designed functions on ELTs. ECA GROUP’s fourth generation ELTs will be compatible with the second-generation Cospas-Sarsat satellite system, which will be in full-service in 2025.


Galileo Search and Rescue Return Link Improvement for a better Civil Aviation Safety (GRICAS): 2016 to 2018


To improve Search and Rescue operations in civil aviation, a body of seven organisations and companies collaborated under the umbrella of the European Research and Innovation Programme « H2020 ». Led by Thales Alenia Space, the six other active body members were : The French National Centre for Space Studies (CNES), ECA GROUP, PildoLabs, STMicroelectronics, the Agency for the Safety of Air Navigation in Africa and Madagascar (ASECNA) and the Aero Club Barcelona-Sabadell.

ECA GROUP’s active part in the collaboration was to develop an Emergency Locator Transmitter ELT DT (Distress Tracking), which can automatically be activated as soon as a flight abnormality becomes apparent. These safety beacons work with Cospas-Sarsat and GALILEO Satellite constellations.



The significant improvement to previous safety beacon generations is the fact that ECA GROUP’s new ELT DT can launch a signal automatically during flight, whilst previous ELT generations were emitting a signal only after a flight accident had occurred.

Thanks to a higher number of satellites (up to 30) provided by the new satellite generation MEOSAR and their higher altitude that were able to locate the distress signal of the safety beacon, a person in distress could be located in less than 10 minutes (previously this took up to two hours). Greater precision, less time and the advantage of a safety beacon that would automatically emit a signal during an aircraft’s different flight phases helped improve aviation safety considerably. 


GRIMASSE (General aviation Rescue capacity IMprovement for the worldwide Adoption of a Safe Solution based on European GNSS (GRIMASSE): 2017-2021

99% of all aeronautical accidents involve general aviation (civilian flight operations with the exception of passenger airlines). These small and often private planes and helicopters usually use Personal Locator beacons (PLBs) to send out an emergency signal when needed.

The capability to find stranded passengers as fast as possible is crucial as these accidents often involve survivors.

The average number of yearly rescue operations in Europe is around 840, each of them requiring on average 2 helicopters and 5 hours of research.

To improve general aviation safety and rescue capacities, a consortium of 7 companies, driven by Thales Alenia Space, has launched the project GRIMASSE for the worldwide adoption of a safe solution based on the European Global Navigation Satellite System (GNSS).

As GRIMASSE project members, ECA GROUP and PildoLabs have successfully tested the use of ECA GROUP’s emergency safety beacons ELT DT (Distress Tracking) in general aviation. In particular, the built-in Return Link Message and 2-ways-messaging that allows rescue operators to communicate via short messages with the people in distress, has proven its great functionality.

The benefits of ECA GROUP’s ELT DT in general aviation are clear: greater aviation safety, performance, and reliability.

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