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Thread: My SPOT went spotty on me.....

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    Member Float Pilot's Avatar
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    Default My SPOT went spotty on me.....

    Was up doing a long cross country dual with a client in his plane. I took my survival vest with my hand-held GPS and my SPOT....

    I had my SPOT on bread-crumb mode and even hit the I AM HERE AND OK button at three or four different places along the way...

    When I got home, there were NO notifications....

    Not totally sure why just yet... I renewed my subscription recently and the guy I talked with seemed to think something was not entered correctly into their system.....

    Oh they billed my credit card just fine...

    Anyway, as I knew ,,, but did not do,,,, I should have checked that the darn thing was making reports before I drove to the air-field...
    Floatplane,Tailwheel and Firearms Instructor- Dragonfly Aero
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    Quote Originally Posted by Float Pilot View Post
    Was up doing a long cross country dual with a client in his plane. I took my survival vest with my hand-held GPS and my SPOT....

    I had my SPOT on bread-crumb mode and even hit the I AM HERE AND OK button at three or four different places along the way...

    When I got home, there were NO notifications....

    Not totally sure why just yet... I renewed my subscription recently and the guy I talked with seemed to think something was not entered correctly into their system.....

    Oh they billed my credit card just fine...

    Anyway, as I knew ,,, but did not do,,,, I should have checked that the darn thing was making reports before I drove to the air-field...
    Another learning experience that didn't cost an arm and a leg - - - literally speaking !!! As a popular radio personality was fond of saying, "And now - - - - - the rest of the story." Hope you find the cause of this wrinkle in performance .......................... !

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    Hey FP, wasn't clear...have you used it before, or was this the first run for both you and the device?
    14 Days to Alaska
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    Member DucksAndDogs's Avatar
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    I'd try it at home, right now, to make sure it works. If it sends a message, I'd chalk it up to shoddy service from the SPOT devices and switch to an iridium based messenger.

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    Member Float Pilot's Avatar
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    Hey FP, wasn't clear...have you used it before, or was this the first run for both you and the device?
    It has been working fine for the last couple-three years. Although.... I had previous problems with the service provider for the bread crumb part of the service.. But at least the manual alert button part worked back then...
    It was working all summer just fine... It waited until I was on a long night cross country in another person's airplane...

    Long story short, it pays to check before you leave the house...
    Floatplane,Tailwheel and Firearms Instructor- Dragonfly Aero
    Experimental Hand-Loader, NRA Life Member
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    Default SPOT help

    Quote Originally Posted by DucksAndDogs View Post
    I'd chalk it up to shoddy service from the SPOT devices
    I have not had shoddy service. One downside of the SPOT is that it doesn't acquire sat signals very quickly. The only times I've seen no service is when the operator doesn't give the SPOT the pauses that it expects or there is just no line of sight to the satellites:
    - after turn on, don't do anything for 3-5 seconds because it won't know you pressed any keys during this boot up time.
    - while in bread crumb mode, the OK button does not work. (which you did find)
    - while in bread crumb mode, no notifications are sent (this is SOP, what you saw). Instead, in bread crumb mode, you need to go to your spot page and see the waypoints that it logged every 10 minutes.

    Have you gone to your spot page (you can do it now) to see if your trip really did get bread crumbed? I'm betting its all there, which is why the OK button didn't work, because it really was working in bread crumb mode. Just a guess.

    Sorry if one of more of my suggestions are off base. Just trying to help, and that's hard to do by a single written description.

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    Member DucksAndDogs's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by FamilyMan View Post
    or there is just no line of sight to the satellites

    Ever run into this problem on the north side of any mountains?

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    Quote Originally Posted by DucksAndDogs View Post
    Ever run into this problem on the north side of any mountains?
    Yes but it has to be a steep mountain and I have to be on it, not next to it, to have trouble acquiring signal. That is one of those times that it pays to be able to tell what the SPOT is thinking/doing based solely on what lights are flashing and in what sequence. If you "read" the lights accurately, you can know what mode your SPOT is in. As much of a SPOT defender as I am, I'll readily admit that you just about need an advanced degree in SPOT to decode those lights.

    Also, I should mention that 100% of my experience is from the original older SPOT model (uses AA batteries instead of AAA). I got one of the first ones available and have used it successfully ever since.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FamilyMan View Post
    Yes but it has to be a steep mountain and I have to be on it, not next to it, to have trouble acquiring signal. That is one of those times that it pays to be able to tell what the SPOT is thinking/doing based solely on what lights are flashing and in what sequence. If you "read" the lights accurately, you can know what mode your SPOT is in. As much of a SPOT defender as I am, I'll readily admit that you just about need an advanced degree in SPOT to decode those lights.

    Also, I should mention that 100% of my experience is from the original older SPOT model (uses AA batteries instead of AAA). I got one of the first ones available and have used it successfully ever since.

    I guess my concern is what good do the blinking lights do you if you need the SOS ON the north side of a mountain...

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    Default Why worry about blinking lights?

    Quote Originally Posted by DucksAndDogs View Post
    I guess my concern is what good do the blinking lights do you if you need the SOS ON the north side of a mountain...
    One possible good they can do is to let the hunter know what the situation really is. They can determine that the SPOT is continuing to attempt to acquire (obviously, this would be a poor time for the hunter to press OK or other button if they're expecting action now).

    Knowing those lights could allow you to see, maybe even after 20 or more minutes (an eternity) signal acquisition.

    Knowing those lights can let you know the exact times (happens twice not once) when my handheld unit is actually transmitting to the satellite. A few minutes later I'll see it happen again for a second time. That is when I know that the satellite is now sending my message.

    Seeing no signal acquisition could convince a hunter to move the SPOT to a better place. In a worst case scenario, and only as a last resort, you could even pre-press whatever function you wanted on the SPOT, pre-acquisition, and throw the darn SPOT as far as you can. It floats (that could be either good or bad if you huck it). This might be useful if you fell down a hole while alone.

    So yeah, knowing how your survival equipment operates internally (well, externally I guess, since we're talking about lights) can help you operate your equipment more effectively I think.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FamilyMan View Post
    One possible good they can do is to let the hunter know what the situation really is. They can determine that the SPOT is continuing to attempt to acquire (obviously, this would be a poor time for the hunter to press OK or other button if they're expecting action now).

    Knowing those lights could allow you to see, maybe even after 20 or more minutes (an eternity) signal acquisition.

    Knowing those lights can let you know the exact times (happens twice not once) when my handheld unit is actually transmitting to the satellite. A few minutes later I'll see it happen again for a second time. That is when I know that the satellite is now sending my message.

    Seeing no signal acquisition could convince a hunter to move the SPOT to a better place. In a worst case scenario, and only as a last resort, you could even pre-press whatever function you wanted on the SPOT, pre-acquisition, and throw the darn SPOT as far as you can. It floats (that could be either good or bad if you huck it). This might be useful if you fell down a hole while alone.

    So yeah, knowing how your survival equipment operates internally (well, externally I guess, since we're talking about lights) can help you operate your equipment more effectively I think.


    Agreed. I guess I didn't convey my point too well. What I'm getting at is: what good is poor satellite acquisition when you need to use the SOS feature? Is something like being on the north side of a mountain worth your life, if it came down to that? I agree that knowing your equipment is absolutely necessary, I'm just concerned with the service of the SPOT. It's all well and good, until you're in a situation where you need to use the "Save my @$$" feature and it won't link up because you don't have a clear line of sight between the unit and its equatorial satellite. I think that having a SPOT is most definitely better than having nothing at all, it just seems like with the advanced technology available for relatively the same price, any person who frequents the Alaskan wilderness might consider other options - especially a bush pilot.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FamilyMan View Post
    I have not had shoddy service. One downside of the SPOT is that it doesn't acquire sat signals very quickly. The only times I've seen no service is when the operator doesn't give the SPOT the pauses that it expects or there is just no line of sight to the satellites:
    - after turn on, don't do anything for 3-5 seconds because it won't know you pressed any keys during this boot up time.
    - while in bread crumb mode, the OK button does not work. (which you did find)
    - while in bread crumb mode, no notifications are sent (this is SOP, what you saw). Instead, in bread crumb mode, you need to go to your spot page and see the waypoints that it logged every 10 minutes.

    Have you gone to your spot page (you can do it now) to see if your trip really did get bread crumbed? I'm betting its all there, which is why the OK button didn't work, because it really was working in bread crumb mode. Just a guess.

    Sorry if one of more of my suggestions are off base. Just trying to help, and that's hard to do by a single written description.
    How many total flight hours do you have with the SPOT and what is your success/failure ratio for position reports?

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    Member Vince's Avatar
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    used my spot out counting moose the otherday... went to my spot page and nothing was tracked... turned out i owed them 186 smackers for renewal...
    "If you are on a continuous search to be offended, you will always find what you are looking for; even when it isn't there."

    meet on face book here

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    Quote Originally Posted by DucksAndDogs View Post
    I guess my concern is what good do the blinking lights do you if you need the SOS ON the north side of a mountain...
    I think it extremely helpful, if you know help is not coming you can start praying, instead of waiting. LOL
    Or dig out your emergency gear.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mr. Pid View Post
    How many total flight hours do you have with the SPOT and what is your success/failure ratio for position reports?
    PID,

    FWIW Several hundred hours for me over 3 (maybe 4?) summers.
    Wainwright village to Ketchikan. I don't know of any missed position reports. I was confident it would NOT work well above Brooks but seemed to work fine.

    What is this "north side of a mountain" stuff? Why does a satellite care whether you are north or south of a mountain? That sounds WAY fishy.
    I DO get the theory/history, but I have not personally experienced it. Has anyone here? That would be interesting to hear.

    I think as long as you know how the unit works (I mean REALLY KNOW HOW the unit works) it is fine. There are alot of reasons its not my first line of defense however. thats another subject.

    KA

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    I used to have this issue all the time while living out on the Denali hwy. There seems to be a lot of areas in Alaska where coverage is spotty. Sometimes it wouldn't pick me up for a good twenty minutes. I learned that spot tracker and globalstar lack coverage in Alaska. I would stick with an iridium based service.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FamilyMan View Post
    I have not had shoddy service.
    I haven't either, but there have been a bunch of problems with the SPOT 2 devices, both with battery life (which it sounds like this was not) and with the antennas, which this could have been. There are several dogsled, bicycle, etc. race tracking services that use SPOT as their tracking device (for example, trackleaders.com) and they've mostly found that they perform well but there have been issues with the SPOT 2.

    BTW, tracking automatically turns off after 24 hours, but it sounds like that wasn't the issue, either.

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    Default thanks mlshore

    I didn't know either one of those things mlshore. Never used a SPOT 2, and I've sure never kept dropping bread crumbs for more than a day. Thanks, I enjoy hearing new info on the subject of SPOT.

    I don't have any need for a measuring tape in regards to this thread; I was just trying to help with operational tips in using SPOT that I've learned in using mine and seem to have caused some bees to get into some bonnets...

    And to Vince: Did you decide to pay your SPOT bill? Or decommission the device?

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    Quote Originally Posted by AK-HUNT View Post
    What is this "north side of a mountain" stuff? Why does a satellite care whether you are north or south of a mountain? That sounds WAY fishy.
    I DO get the theory/history, but I have not personally experienced it. Has anyone here? That would be interesting to hear.

    I think as long as you know how the unit works (I mean REALLY KNOW HOW the unit works) it is fine. There are alot of reasons its not my first line of defense however. thats another subject.

    Well, if you know how the unit works (I mean REALLY KNOW HOW the unit works), you'll realize that since the SPOT runs on Globalstar satellites, which are equatorial satellites, the look angle necessary to connect to said satellites can often be impeded by tall structures to the south. It's a well known fact that equatorial satellites produce weaker signals the closer you get to the poles because their footprints are located over the equator. Since you're basically shooting at the southern horizon in order to compensate for the curvature of the earth, anything between you and the southern horizon can block transmission, rendering your SPOT useless (same thing applies looking north if you're closer to the south pole). This usually isn't an issue for pilots since they tend to have a clear line of sight to the southern horizon, granted by altitude. Personally, I think this may give a false sense of trust in the device. Suppose you have an unexpected landing or emergency in a location that you just can't seem to get it to connect because you've got mountains/trees to the south? A similar device, on the Iridium network, known for exceptional pole-to-pole coverage, may save your life when the SPOT just blinks. Just my two cents. A lot of people place a load of faith in these devices without really knowing their setbacks. I'm merely presenting a scenario one should consider when carrying this device as the ONLY means of communication.

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    Quote Originally Posted by FamilyMan View Post
    I didn't know either one of those things mlshore. Never used a SPOT 2, and I've sure never kept dropping bread crumbs for more than a day. Thanks, I enjoy hearing new info on the subject of SPOT.

    I don't have any need for a measuring tape in regards to this thread; I was just trying to help with operational tips in using SPOT that I've learned in using mine and seem to have caused some bees to get into some bonnets...

    And to Vince: Did you decide to pay your SPOT bill? Or decommission the device?

    No measuring tape. Like you, I'm just trying to make sure people know how & why they work/don't work. If you ever run into a connection issue and you have trees, mountains, buildings, etc., to your immediate south, move to the south side of those objects. If that isn't an option, you can start going north until it connects, but keep in mind, signal weakens as you move north. If you're in an emergency situation and can't move, I guess just leave it on and hope it links up, or, as stated earlier, throw it towards a place with a clearer line of sight to the southern horizon!

    I'm genuinely not trying to be argumentative. But, since there are people who use these as their sole means of emergency communication, it can't hurt to know a little more about the device. And, if anyone is in the market for one, they will probably find the entire thread informative. Just adding what I know about them. They're still a good device, and better than nothing. I think they have over 2,000 successful "Oh %*@$" rescues. People should just know that service won't be quite as good as our friends in the lower 48 enjoy.

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