Saved by the Cell
The new AirFlare app transforms a cell phone
into a powerful rescue beacon
By Mark Halsall
There are always risks associated with downhill skiing,
whether it’s the danger posed by hazards such as tree
wells – which can trap unsuspecting skiers – or the
possibility of getting lost when straying out of bounds
at a ski resort.
When this happens, a new tool is available that makes it
easier for search and rescue teams to pinpoint the locations
of skiers and other outdoor enthusiasts who are lost or injured.
It’s an app called AirFlare that can turn a cell phone
into a powerful rescue beacon and equip searchers with multiple
ways to find people in trouble, both on and off the grid.
“AirFlare essentially is a set of technologies that leverage an
adventurer’s cell phone to help search teams find them in the
event that they need help,” said Denis Lee, one of the developers
of the AirFlare app.
“Our flagship feature is the ability to find a phone even when
it’s outside of a cellular service area. That’s what really sets us
apart from other on-grid or in-cell-service tracking devices.”
According to Lee, other advantages of the AirFlare system
include cost and ease of use.
Designed for adventurers
While other forms of rescue technology such as personal locator
beacons and satellite emergency notification devices
are very effective, Lee says they really aren’t ubiquitous in the
“For some people, the reason is cost, for others it’s a technology
hurdle and for others, it’s just another thing they need
to remember to pack when they set out for a skiing or outdoor
adventure trip,” he said.
The AirFlare app, on the other hand, is inexpensive to
download and easy to use. Also, as Lee points out, skiers and
other outdoor enthusiasts who frequent alpine resorts, such
as mountain bikers and hikers, will typically already carry a
cell phone with them; it’s not an additional device to carry.
In addition, he says, activating the AirFlare app couldn’t
“The only thing that an adventurer has to do is download
the app to their phone. They then fill out a short profile form
which is stored up in a registry that is accessible by search
teams, and that’s it,” Lee said. “Once that app is downloaded
and the profile is created and stored, they actually never have
to open the app again.”
On the search and rescue side, Lee says AirFlare represents
a fresh approach that can help speed-up rescue efforts and
make them more efficient.
With AirFlare, the GPS coordinates of a lost subject’s phone
can be determined even before a search team is assembled.
If that person is an AirFlare subscriber, the system’s powerful
search technology is configured to find their specific phone,
eliminating the possibility of a false detection. In addition,
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