Declaration of the Cospas-Sarsat System at Full Operational Capability for Emergency Locator Transmitters for Distress Tracking (EL T(DT)s) Based on Second-Generation
On 15 December 2022, Cospas-Sarsat advised of its declaration of the Cospas-Sarsat System at full operational capability (FOC) for the detection and processing of messages transmitted from Emergency Locator Transmitters for Distress Tracking (ELT(DT)s) based on first-generation beacon (FGB) specifications, effective starting from January 2023.
As forecast in that letter, Cospas-Sarsa further advises that the Cospas-Sarsat Council, at its sixty-ninth session (CSC-69), 24 to 27 October 2023, declared the Cospas-Sarsat System at full operational capability for the detection and processing of messages from ELT(DT)s based on second-generation beacon (SGB) specifications, effective starting from 1 January 2024.
This announcement completes the readiness declarations for ELT(DT)s of the two types presently
specified by Cospas-Sarsat, enabling aircraft operators to meet autonomous distress tracking
requirements of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) and the European Union
Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) through a choice of EL T(DT) technologies and beacon models.
As also noted in the 15 December 2022 letter, these successes have been the result of years of hard
work and close collaboration among the governments that develop, maintain and operate the
ground-segment equipment of the Cospas-Sarsat System, together with the efforts of ground- segment equipment and beacon manufacturers. Close cooperation also has continued with ICAO
Administrations and Cospas-Sarsat Mission Control Centers (MCCs) are reminded to bring to the
attention of rescue coordination centers and other search-and-rescue authorities that since the
beginning of 2023, Cospas-Sarsat distress-alert messages originating from FGB ELT(DT)s might
be routed to them at any time. They should similarly be advised that such messages from SGB
ELT(DT)s might now also be routed to them at any time. Messages from ELT(DT)s may have a
slightly different form and purpose (i.e., indicating risk of crash rather than a crash having
occurred) than other Cospas-Sarsat alert messages.
MCCs and beacon manufacturers also should note that all over-the-air testing of ELT(DT)s using
any operational protocols or coding including, after 31 December 2023, any SGB ELT(DT)s,
should be avoided to prevent the risk of a false distress alert. Tests using operational protocols
or coding remain possible only on an exceptional basis, with notice provided in advance to the
appropriate Mission Control Centers, in accordance with the Cospas-Sarsat data distribution plan.
MCCs, rescue coordination centers and other search-and-rescue authorities should further take
note that at present the Cospas-Sarsat System will not provide independently-calculated location
data for ELT(DT) activations, even if the ELT(DT) has been specifically designed to operate in a
post-crash condition (i.e., stationary or near stationary). The System architecture for ELT(DT)s
was designed to rely primarily on location data that is encoded in the beacon message. (See
document C/S A.001 , section 3.2.1.) Consequently, the Cospas-Sarsat System may only deliver
the latest position encoded in the beacon message and that encoded position might not be the actual
crash location if the position was reported only prior to the crash. To ensure both FGB and SGB
ELT(DT)s provide the same independently-calculated location data like all other Cospas-Sarsat
beacons, the Programme plans to address this issue in the future but for now the limitation remains