PLB - Personal Locator Beacon

PLB, Personal Locator Beacon, is a personal COSPAS-SARSAT rescue transmitter for use at sea, in the mountains or in the air.

The advantages of PLB

PLB - Personal Locator Beacon n.1
PLB - Personal Locator Beacon n.2

The PLB is a COSPAS-SARSAT rescue transmitter that specifically locates the person. Unlike other rescue transmitters (EPIRB or ELT), it can be used in various situations: at sea, in flight and in the mountains (mountaineering, hiking, off-road, etc.).

Precisely because of its flexibility and adaptation to multiple situations, it makes the rescue transmitter intended for greater dissemination, so much so that the COSPAS-SARSAT estimates for 2020 a number of PLB in circulation twice as many as the number of EPIRB (the latter currently still the first rescue transmitter as the number of active units).

The main advantages over EPIRB are:

  • The PLB can be conveniently stored in a pocket
  • Can be transferred (together with the owner) to another boat, tender or on land
  • Can be used at sea, in the mountains or in flight
  • No need to apply for the MMSI code

The main disadvantages compared to the EPIRB are:

  • Does not operate automatically
  • Impossible to determine the owner if the form has not been sent to Bari
  • More attention should be paid when stowing on board


It is necessary to send the registration form to the Cospas / Sarsat centre in Bari. The PLB does not need and cannot be programmed with the vessel's MMSI code.

The PLB contains the programmed country code (in Italy: 247), so you must ensure you buy a PLB programmed with the country of residence of the owner. In addition, the programming protocol may differ from one country to another, so in the case of Italian nationality it is advisable to buy it in Italy.

In all cases where the directives state that an EPIRB on board (or ELT) is mandatory, it cannot be replaced by the PLB, which can only be complementary.

The prerogatives

PLBs in operating mode activate:

  • Digital satellite transmission at 406 MHz
  • Analog transmission at 121.5 MHz
  • Strobe light

Some models on the market have the following prerogatives:

  • GPS integration to reduce the localization error from 5 Km to 100 mt.
  • Some models are floating and therefore significantly increase the level of safety offered, especially when used at sea.