with Lindsey J. Bertomen
For secure comms and blue-force tracking, look to the stars
The inReach Explorer is a unique tool because it allows a headquarters to communicate critical two-way information, track and deploy units and even employ navigational features
For people into adventure sports, tracking technology is a valuable safety net. For public safety responders, it is an indispensable tool.
One such tool is the Delorme inReach Explorer, a 6.7-ounce handheld satellite communicator designed to provide global communication with compatible handheld devices.
Delorme’s Kim Striver described to me the capabilities of the company’s inReach Explorer. The inReach Explorer is only a little larger than most cell phones and is designed for hard use environments.
Striver said the inReach Explorer communicator is resistant to unauthorized monitoring. In fact, one Southern California agency uses them for secure communications during investigations, she said.
In addition, the inReach Explorer does more than just satellite communication. When purchased as an enterprise solution, it can be used for blue-force tracking as well. GPS coordinates can be plotted at a prescribed interval and reported to a command center. This enables an agency to track the location of units and equipment.
One of the options in inReach Explorer is for an agency to integrate custom forms, which can feed data from the field into a command center. This would be useful for a crime scene that is spread over a large area, coordinating a search or marking a large interdiction area.
The inReach Explorer is not designed as a navigation handheld, but it does provide basic satellite navigation, allowing waypoint marking and some track data storage. When paired with a mobile device, it can be used to plot topographic data.
I’ve had a chance to play with the predecessor of this product. Against several other products, Delorme products punch through when others won’t.
The consumer version of the inReach Explorer has an SOS button, which goes to a global response center. For the public safety version, it can be routed to the law enforcement command center. I imagine some smaller agencies end up getting theirs at an outdoor store like REI. In that case, they would need to work with DeLorme on where this activation can be routed.
I asked Striver how secure unit to satellite communication is on the inReach Explorer. She told me that it uses the Iridium global satellite network, which is a commercial network.
However, as everyone knows, the protocol and security standard for this type of communication is relatively high. It doesn’t get sent to the satellite as a viewable text and is not readily hacked.
In fact, I know of agencies generally use satellite texting when they don't want to send something over the radio. That is, many agencies use the inReach Explorer, even if they are in town.
The inReach Explorer uses a helical satellite antenna and communicates using short data bursts. This is important to the law enforcement user. This data protocol and antenna punches through when other products cannot.
To put this in perspective, during a recent rescue, the victims had three satellite communication products in a ravine surrounded by terrain features. Guess which product is credited with the rescue?
In case anyone was wondering, the Iridium global satellite network has more overlap and redundancy than most dispatch centers.
The inReach Explorer is a unique tool because it allows a headquarters to communicate critical two-way information, track and deploy units, and even employ navigational features. It’s not just for working off the grid.