Chilean Plane Lost, Perhaps Forever - But It Should Not Be
Readily Available Device Would Have Provided Exact Location in Minutes
But a very inexpensive and readily available device, if it had been used, could have told authorities exactly where and when the plane went down, perhaps in time for a rescue effort, and certainly with enough specificity to make recovery of the black boxes possible, says MIT engineer, inventor, and now professor John Banzhaf.
Banzhaf says that in this era of smart phones and GPS, there should be no such mysteries.
Indeed, the plane's position when it went down should have been known immediately from a simple piece of existing technology known as a floatable EPIRB, and a miniature data recorder within it recovered very shortly thereafter without any deep diving and endless listening for elusive pings, says Banzhaf, who has two U.S. patents and many technical papers to his credit.
Most ships and even private yachts are already required to have on board EPIRBs [Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons], a technology that has been in use for decades in marine environments.
When activated by triggers set off when the devices are plunged to a reasonable depth of water, these floatable EPIRB devices pop up to the surface and send out an emergency distress signal - which indicates the identity of the caller - to several search and rescue satellites always overhead worldwide.
If linked - as even small personal hand-held EPIRB devices designed for use by hikers now commonly are - to an internal GPS locator of the kind found in many cell phones or even smart watches, the devices will also provide their location with pinpoint accuracy, and in addition permit rescuers who subsequently arrive on the scene to hone in on its radio signal to locate it floating on the surface.
Indeed, had the Chilean flight been equipped with such an inexpensive and readily available device, it is even possible that the distress signal providing the exact location where the airplane went down could have been received in time for rescue aircraft to provide assistance to any who might have survived and been waiting on rafts or even in the water for rescue, argues Banzhaf.