Rockwell Collins's new DF-500 direction finder builds on the search and rescue (SAR) mission of its DF-430 predecessor. The DF-430 had been in production for over 10 years, with more than 2000 units serving government and military SAR organizations globally.
The DF-500 system pinpoints distress signals with what Rockwell describes as "unmatched accuracy and reliability." The unit enables aircraft to receive and immediately locate activated 406 MHz Emergency Position-Indicating Radio Beacon (EPIRB) signals, allowing crews to go directly to people in distress.
“When it comes to airborne SAR missions, saving time is often the difference between a rescue and a recovery,” said Troy Brunk, Vice President and General Manager, Airborne Solutions for Rockwell Collins.
No calibration is required for the DF-500 and it is fully backwards compatible with the DF-430. The system’s all solid-state antenna is designed to easily drop into mounting provisions for the widely used DF-301E direction finding antenna system. It has stand-alone or integrated line replaceable units for universal interface ability, and the flush mounted antenna that doesn't affect the aircraft flight envelope.
Software defined radio technology developed for the DF-500 enables higher sensitivity, immunity to interferences, and stability of bearing indications. New features include multi-channel scanning and real-time monitoring, as well as fast scanning and interoperability with maritime digital selective calling (DSC) and automatic identification system (AIS) distress protocols. Its multi-channel architecture enables key frequencies to be monitored simultaneously allowing rapid detection of emergency beacons and distress or safety calls over V/UHF radios.
The DF-500 provides full compatibility with all existing and all future identified frequencies for the International COSPAS-SARSAT Program, a satellite-based SAR distress alert detection and information distribution system, and can be upgraded to new waveforms.
It can provide the bearing to a COSPAS-SARSAT as well as its beacon’s latitude and longitude, along with its unique identifier, at ranges up to 116 nmi. Once the signal is received, the system provides the operator with a bearing to rally the beacon, and beacon GPS coordinates, if available, to be entered into the flight management system and fly directly to the beacon’s location.
A civil version, DF-500C, is also available and does not require export license.