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Help for the lost: a fabric antenna to keep you from being a castaway

Jesse Hicks, @jhicks23
October 4, 2011
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Doesn't look like much, does it? But the next time you're lost at sea, you just might be thankful you've got it. That little square of fabric is actually a flexible antenna designed for the Cospas-Sarsat distress signal network, a Cold War-era system built to help pinpoint missing ships, planes and people. Designed to be sewn into a life vest, the antenna broadcasts an emergency beacon at a low frequency for greater range; in field tests, that helped rescuers find it within minutes. It's also tear- and water-resistant, which you'll be grateful for when you're being tossed around like a ragdoll in a sea of whitecaps. The technology was developed by the European Space Agency in partnership with a Finnish company. Next on their agenda? A round, floating companion for the marooned, codenamed Wilson.

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