SOS Beacon Buying Guide

We have several emergency beacons for a number of different applications available on our site, but it may not be immediately obvious which one is right for you.

If you are looking for advice on whether a PLB or EPIRB will meet your requirements, our buying guide will assist you with the most frequently asked questions.

If you are unsure of what model is for you or need any other advice before buying please call us on 0800 112 3919 to discuss your requirements.

What do SOS Beacons do?

SOS Beacons are devices designed with a single purpose: to act as a lifeline in the event of an emergency. Both types of device are simply operated and, once activated, will consistently transmit a signal with your coordinates to assist in your rescue.

SOS Beacons work anywhere in the world and do not rely on communication systems such as mobile phone networks. They transmit location signals using either satellite, radar or AIS enabling you to reach out for assistance when you need it.

We offer beacons from trusted manufacturers such as Cobham, McMurdo, ACR, and Ocean Signal.

What's the difference between the SOS Beacons?

The majority of SOS beacons on offer are designed for use at sea with some models complying with specific SOLAS and GMDSS regulations. Of all the categories, PLBs are most flexible as they can be used on land or at sea and are not required to be tied to a particular vessel.

Transmits Via Satellite Satellite Radar AIS
Transmits To Emergency Services Emergency Services

X Band Radar equipped

vessels in vicinity

AIS equipped

vessels in vicinity

Ongoing Subscription No No No No
Maritime Use Yes Yes Yes Yes
Land Use Yes No No No
SOS Beacons vs Satellite/GSM Trackers

SOS Beacons are very singular in purpose; they are specifically designed only to send an emergency signal once activated and have no additional features to speak of. If you are looking for a device which can be tracked online or show your movements then an emergency beacon would not be suitable.

Many of our trackers have SOS functions and can also send automated track points and messages out to mobiles or emails, making them a low cost means of communication, depending on the subscription package.

However, if you do simply want a device to be used as an “in case of emergency”/last resort, then SOS beacons are ideal, with a low initial cost, no ongoing subscription fees, no maintenance* and no complicated set up beyond registering the device online. If the device is used certain providers will replace it free of charge.

Which SOS Beacon is best for me?

Each SOS beacon has their own advantages which will vary depending on where you are travelling or sailing.

Although a PLB can be used at sea it is preferable to carry an EPIRBs. This is because when you register your EPIRB you will be required to enter vessel details which will give authorities more information on your situation if you do activate the beacon. Automatic models have a higher price but will activate automatically upon immersion in water even while the Manual models require the user to activate.

If you are sailing outside of the UK we offer free reprogramming to the country of your choice - simply let us know in the checkout process.

For use on land a PLB is the best option available as you do not have to register with vessel details. McMurdo Fast Find Ranger is a great option, a low-cost device with no unnecessary marine features. For use on land or at sea consider a maritime PLB such as ResQLink or AquaLink which have additional safety features such as buoyancy and being watertight for up to an hour at a depth of 5 metres.

If you require use outside of the UK we offer free reprogramming to the country of your choice - simply let us know in the checkout process.

SART Transponders transmit your location to vessels in the vicinity with X Band radar. Your location will show on their radar system with specific symbols to alert them you are in an SOS situation and require assistance.

We offer SART Transponders from trusted brands Cobham & Ocean Signal which comply with IMO SOLAS regulations.

AIS Man Overboard (MOB) devices are designed for use by individual crew members or passengers to activate in case of emergency.

These small and lightweight beacons can be attached to a lifejacket. Once activated the beacon will transmit your location to any vessels in the area with AIS equipment on board informing them you require assistance.

* Beacons must be checked and battery replaced every 5 years to ensure it is in full working condition.