I have been trying out a new 1st generation GPS unit designed for personal use in the falconry world. Having spoken to the designer on the phone I was not only interested to see if it worked as well as he claimed, but if it was as easy to use.
The box arrived and contained within was a plastic matchbox sized box, a plug and charger, a USB charging cable, a car lighter charging cable, a disc with instructions and a back pack for a falcon (not shown in pics but you all know what they look like). I was asked to phone the supplier when the unit arrived and he took the mobile number that I would be tracking the unit with (you can “authorise” up to 5 numbers). He said that he would programme the unit with my number and this number would be the only one that could track the unit, to anyone who flies regularly in the same area or flies close to others this is a good idea as you will not be tracking the falcon in the next valley and you know that yours cannot be tracked by anyone unauthorised to do so. Anyhow, I did what anyone does with a new gadget, took it into the garden and disregarded the instructions. I switched the unit on and after it had stopped flashing I dialled the number. 3 rings and I was cut off, 20secs later I received a message with a link to Google maps. After pressing on the link I was shown a picture of my garden with a red pin in it locating the GPS unit.
The unit is 40g in weight and measures 4cm wide x 5cm long and 2cm deep, It is only suitable for back packing and, in my opinion, due to size and weight only suitable for birds over 2lb in weight. I spent a while toying with it and playing find the unit and failed to lose it each time, in fact I asked a friend to “go hide” and I waited for a text to say he was ready and with a simple phone call and a text giving a location I was able to track him down hiding in a bush in a field 19 miles away. I used the directions option through Google maps and was directed in a sat nav manner to the unit. To charge it you simply sit it in the cradle provided and wait for the green light to come on (around 4hrs). Along with the GPS unit I was sent a back pack designed specifically for Eagles. The pack is fits in the usual way (crossing the breast, under the wings and to the back). The main difference is that the pack is removable using small clips attached to the pouch that holds the GPS unit.
I am told that there is a smaller unit in the process of development and that there is an android APP available, for a £20:00 one off fee, that will allow you to track the speed, altitude and location of the hawk in real time. That will
make time trials and kiting a large falcon very easy to record without dispute. Apart from the size issue on small birds I can’t fault the unit for locating a bird in the field VERY quickly. The back pack clip will fit existing packs and for larger birds such as eagles, redtails and birds of a similar size the unit is fine. I would be cautious on putting it on a bird that frequently enters cover at speed such as a goshawk but to be fair any back mount holds the risk of injury in these circumstances. As the unit has NO antenna attached there is no risk of electrocution should the bird stray onto pylons whilst missing. What is more the unit is currently priced at £159:99 and each separate mounting system is £10:00 for permanent or £15:00 for the removable eagle pack. The APP for android (optional) is £20:00 and will take the total up to £190:00 for a single hawk set up.