40 years of RECCO – The Technical development
Part 1 of 4
June 12, 2023
The idea that lead to RECCO’s development over 50 years ago was born out of a tragic avalanche accident where RECCO founder Magnus Granhed assisted in the rescue work. Magnus was frustrated by the primitive methods for locating buried victims that existed at that time.
In December 1973, Magnus was in Åre, Sweden, when an avalanche occurred at Svartberget and buried several people. He was one of the first persons on site and assisted in the search by “probing” with his ski poles and digging at random. Sadly, two people were found deceased and one of them was a friend of Magnus’s.
His frustration after the accident motivated Magnus to start speaking with professional rescuers in the Alps to better understand how the search process worked in case of an avalanche: “I understood early that an electronic solution was the way to go,” recalls Magnus.
Development started as part of an exciting research project at the Swedish Royal Institute of Technology. Tests were carried out with professional rescuers such as Bruno Jelk, Head of Mountain Rescue in Zermatt at that time, and Beat Perren, founder of Air Zermatt. Their widespread knowledge and experience from hundreds of avalanche accidents provided valuable input to further develop the technology behind the two-part system consisting of a detector, that sends out a signal and is used by professional rescuers, and the reflector that bounces back the signal and is integrated in outdoor products. The first prototype was finalized in the beginning of the 80s. In 1983, 40 years ago, the company called RECCO was founded.
The RECCO system offers a solution to quickly locate outdoor enthusiasts equipped with rescue reflectors. Both detectors and reflectors have been refined and improved over the years. The first detector, the R1, had a weight of about 20 kilos. Today’s detector, the R9, weights about 900 grams.
RECCO SAR Helicopter Detector – Broadening the market
In 2016, the RECCO system created another ground-breaking innovation. After several years of development, a helicopter carried detector was introduced, designed to search large areas faster year-round. The same technique that has been used only for avalanche rescue is now used to locate people that are lost or in distress while performing several outdoor activities such as hiking, biking, hunting or trail running.
The evolution from a winter to a year-round system has spurred additional investment in the testing and the introduction of new reflectors. Durability requirements are very different if you compare a hiking shoe and a ski pant, for example.
Development with focus on sustainability
Testing in lab and field has always been important for the development of the RECCO system, especially as the technology has broadened in scope from winter to year-round activities. There is also a strong focus and commitment to sustainability when developing new reflectors. Sustainability is paramount when choosing materials and production methods.
In order to be a reliable partner for rescue teams worldwide, the development of user-friendly detectors will remain important in parallel with making more people searchable. These two elements remain as equally important today as they were 40 years ago.
Julia Granhed, Communications Manager
RECCO® advanced rescue technology makes outdoor enthusiasts searchable to rescuers in case of an avalanche accident or when lost in the outdoors. The technology builds on a two-part radar system. Rescuers carry RECCO® detectors that send out search signals which are echoed by RECCO® reflectors, carried by the user. RECCO® detectors are used worldwide at more than 900 ski resorts and mountain rescue organizations in 32 countries. RECCO® reflectors are integrated into select apparel, helmets, protection gear and boots manufactured by more than 150 leading outdoor brands. RECCO AB was founded in 1983 in Sweden and is owned by its founder Magnus Granhed and the publicly traded investment company Traction AB (listed on OMX Nordic Exchange Stockholm). More info at recco.com