BuddyBeacon tracks rescue team during gruelling mountain challenge

By Victoria Ellis - 07 June 2013

The 128 mile Kendal Rescue Round is a gruelling 24 hours road bike, fell running, mountain bike and kayak challenge.  Two intrepid members of the Mountain Rescue Team will this year complete the challenge during the Kendal Mountain Festival using the ViewRanger GPS navigation app on their smartphones.

The team will use ViewRanger’s location sharing service, BuddyBeacon, so that festival goers can follow their progress in real time on a big screen in the foyer of the venue. The app’s new night vision feature will also help keep the pair on track.

Kevin Knowles, of the Kendal Mountain Rescue, explains that the team has been using the ViewRanger GPS navigation app in operations over the last four years and believes mobile navigation has an important role in mountain safety.

He adds: “It is very useful. Mobile navigation enhances and supports more traditional methods using map and compass, particularly when you are working out of your own area.  With ViewRanger I have all the maps I need already on the phone and use GPS for navigation.

“A typical scenario would be the call out l had last Sunday.  I was out with the family when the pager went off and I was asked to go direct to the rendezvous (RV) point.  While travelling I got the grid reference, I set this in ViewRanger as a point of interest. I could look at the area around for access and then use ViewRanger to navigate from there to the RV point.”

The Kendal Rescue Round is designed to make people aware of the Kendal team’s area of responsibility and is the brainchild of Deputy Team Leader Kath Jackson who is doing the Round with fellow deputy Dave Howarth from the team.

The BuddyBeacon facility on their phones allows supporters to see the team’s real time progress along the punishing route.  It will also be possible to see the elevation and the times taken for each stage. The route will be displayed on the big screen or can be followed on the internet via:

Kevin thinks that the new night vision feature will be a benefit this year: “About 90% of incidents are at night or in foul weather when the visibility is poor.  When you are trying to look at the screen with a head torch it can be very difficult.  The new feature uses red on the screen which is much easier to see.”

In the future, mountain rescue teams will benefit from intelligent navigation. Augmentra, the team behind ViewRanger, is developing next generation smartphone navigation as part of a new European collaborative project known as DOSSy (Digital Outdoors and Safety System).

DOSSy, which includes the German Red Cross and the Swiss Alpine Club, aims to help facilitate enjoyment of mountain pursuits regardless of age by developing an app that includes intelligent navigation, location and context triggered safety features.

Craig Wareham, co-founder of Cambridge-based Augmentra explains: “The DOSSy project is a step change in mobile navigation. It will enable information about the terrain, weather and fitness of the individual to help guide the user.

“Many apps provide simple positioning; they basically locate you on a map.  Our ViewRanger GPS app is more advanced in that it provides active navigation. It uses predetermined waypoints to direct the users on the right course, with alerts if you go off track.

“DOSSy will offer next generation intelligent navigation, using information about the evolving situation to pre-empt issues and advise both the user and the rescue services as appropriate.”

Kevin sees one benefit of DOSSy as allowing the type of information currently only available via laptop in the control vehicle to be available to teams on the ground.  “It would allow you to see the complete picture of the operation not just your little piece of the jigsaw as you can now,” he says.

DOSSy will also provide a new dimension for rescue teams as it will allow much richer information to be accessed about the lost or injured person.

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