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From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
FounderMagnus Granhed
HeadquartersLidingö, Sweden
Area served
Key people
Fredrik Steinwall (CEO)[1]
  • RECCO detectors and reflectors

RECCO is a rescue technology used by organised rescue teams as an additional tool to more quickly locate people buried by an avalanche or lost in the outdoors.[2] The system is based on a harmonic radar system and composed of a detector and a passive reflector integrated into outdoor clothing and gears.[3]



The RECCO rescue technology was developed by Magnus Granhed, in response to his personal experience with a fatal avalanche accident in Åre, Sweden, in 1973.[4] Starting in the winter of 1978–1979, Granhed collaborated with Bengt Enander's team at the Department of Electromagnetic Theory, Royal Institute of Technology in Stockholm[5][6] to develop an avalanche rescue system, using the principle of harmonic radar.[5]

Granhed formed RECCO AB in 1983 and created the first functional prototype.[5] In 1987, a woman was localised with the RECCO rescue technology from a helicopter in Lenzerheide, Switzerland, in the first live rescue found using the technology.[5]

In 2015, RECCO introduced the RECCO SAR Helicopter detector that expands the technology to finding a missing person in other outdoor environments.[7]

The system

Integrated RECCO reflector on a jacket

Based on the harmonic radar system, the RECCO rescue technology consists of two parts: a passive and lightweight reflector and a portable detector.[3] The reflector is worn by the person and directly integrated in the clothing or gears. The detector is used by professional rescue teams on avalanche site, by foot or from a helicopter.[2][8][9]

The reflector

RECCO reflector integrated in the pants

The reflector is a passive transponder, which does not require batteries[2] or activation, consisting of a diode and an antenna. Its dimensions are 13 mm × 51 mm × 1.5 mm and it weighs 4g.[10] The company suggests that two reflectors in different locations are ideal.[2]

More than 150 brands[7] integrate RECCO reflectors into their outdoor gear, including ski boots, helmets, hiking shoes, jackets, pants and backpacks.[2][7]

The handheld detector


The detector sends out a highly directional radar signal. If the signal hits a reflector it is echoed back to the detector. The returned signal is translated into an audio tone if the detector is pointed in the direction of a reflector. Judging from the audio tone a trained professional rescuer can determine the location of a buried victim. Due to the diode, the returned signal is doubled in frequency - harmonic radar.[2][11]

The R9 detector, released in 2009, weighs 900 grams.[10] During a search and rescue, its signal can locate RECCO reflectors within a range up to 80 meters through air and 20 meters through packed snow,[2][10] depending on various factors such as the snow conditions and depth.[2]

Short-range portable detectors are used, transmitting via a directional antenna at 866.9 MHz (Europe) or 902.85 MHz (US) and receiving at twice the frequency.[3] The detector works by transmitting at one frequency on a 20% duty cycle and listening for a harmonic reflection at double the frequency.[3]

RECCO radio frequencies[3]
Location Transmit Receive
Europe 866.9 MHz 1733.8 MHz
United States 902.85 MHz 1805.7 MHz

The signal from the detector can also weakly be reflected from other electronic devices, such as cameras and cell phones, as well as metallic objects. However, even if this effect has allowed the rescue of several buried people who were not carrying a reflector, the search range of those others devices is much shorter and not reliable enough.[2]

Rescue applications


Avalanche rescue


More than 700 rescue groups worldwide, predominantly in ski resorts, used the technology.[3] The professional rescue teams use RECCO detectors as an electronic search method in addition to the avalanche transceiver to find victims in an avalanche.[10] RECCO equipment is included in textbooks on rescue,[2] and a RECCO reflector is included among measures recommended by the International Commission for Alpine Rescue.[12]

According to the company, people totally buried by an avalanche were located using the technology in fifteen incidents during 2005–15.[2] A case report of a live rescue of a buried off-piste skier using RECCO equipment that occurred in Spain in 2015 has been published in the Journal of Wilderness and Environmental Medicine. The authors commented that the technology was poorly studied compared with some other avalanche safety methods.[2]

RECCO SAR helicopter detector

Outdoor rescue


The RECCO SAR helicopter detector is designed for a large-scale search by professional rescue teams for missing persons in open terrain. The missing person must be equipped with a RECCO rescue reflector to be located by the detector signal.[10][13] The SAR detector can search from a height of 100 meters and covering a search area of approximately 100 meters wide. The principle of locating a victim is the same as for the handheld detector with the detector sending a radar signal echoed back by the reflector. If receiving a returned signal, the rescuer can locate the lost individual.[7]

Other applications


The RECCO technology has also been applied to tracking some amphibian species, especially tropical frogs. The system allows researchers to track small frogs in their natural habitat.[14][15] During 2000‒2004 RECCO equipment was tested for tracking ground beetles.[16]


  1. ^ "Fredrik Steinwall Appointed New CEO For RECCO". Boardsport Source.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Grasegger, Katharina; Stapazzon, Giacomo; Procter, Emily; Brugger, Hermann; Soteras, Inigo (June 2016). "Avalanche Survival After Rescue With the RECCO Rescue System: A Case Report". Wilderness and Environmental Medicine. 27 (2): 282–286. doi:10.1016/j.wem.2016.02.004. PMID 27116920.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Granhed, Magnus (2015-09-03). Petition for Waiver (PDF) (Report). pp. 1‒4. Retrieved 2021-10-18. RECCO detector's transmitter uses the frequency 902.85 MHz … used for example by the "Intelligent Transportation Systems Radio Service". … In Europe, the RECCO detector uses the frequency 866.9 MHz … reflectors are the same all over the world. … pulsed radio signal at 20% duty cycle and the RECCO system is "silent" 80% of the time (it repeatedly transmits for 20 milliseconds and is silent for 80 milliseconds). … the reflector will re-radiate a signal power of approximately 10 nanowatts … around the frequency 1805.7 MHz. … reflector measures approx. 60x20x2 mm. … all objects containing a diode and a metallic structure will react in the same way as the RECCO reflector. … for example if they have a digital camera or a cell phone (no difference if they are switched on or off). … In Europe, several people have been rescued alive even though they were not wearing any RECCO reflectors, but only carrying some other electronic device like a camera, an MP3 player or similar … maximum distance for detecting an avalanche victim, wearing a RECCO reflector, is around 20‒40 meters.
  4. ^ "The RECCO Story". Sports Insight.
  5. ^ a b c d "RECCO History". recco.com.
  6. ^ "Avsnitt 207, historien om RECCO med grundaren Magnus Granhed!". HUSKY INTERNATIONAL.
  7. ^ a b c d "How RECCO's latest innovation helps everyone going into the backcountry". wepowder.com. Retrieved 27 February 2019.
  8. ^ "7 Points To Explain The RECCO Rescue Technology" (PDF). kuhl.com.
  9. ^ "Recco To Debut New Technology At Summer Outdoor Retailer + Outdoor By ISPO Trade Shows". snowindustrynews.com. Retrieved 19 June 2019.
  10. ^ a b c d e "RECCO® Technology". recco.com.
  11. ^ Rasilainen, Kimmo; Viikari, Ville (2015). "Transponder Designs for Harmonic Radar Applications". International Journal of Antennas and Propagation. 2015: 1–9. doi:10.1155/2015/565734.
  12. ^ "Be searchable!" (PDF). International Commission for Alpine Rescue. 2015. Retrieved 27 February 2021.
  13. ^ "This company says its reflector system could help search and rescue teams find lost hikers faster". nsnews.com. Retrieved 28 July 2019.
  14. ^ Gorman, James. "One Simple Signal Sets Off a Complicated Frog Journey". NY Times. The New York Times.
  15. ^ Mowbray, Sean. "Tracking the tiny: Harmonic direction finders aid study of small amphibians". Mongabay.
  16. ^ O'Neal, M.E.; Landis, D.A.; Rothwell, E.; Kempel, L.; Reinhard, D. (2004). "Tracking Insects with Harmonic Radar: a Case Study" (PDF). American Entomologist. 50 (4): 212–218. doi:10.1093/ae/50.4.212. To investigate the logistics of harmonic radar use in the field, we obtained a RECCO transmitter/receiver … unit in May 2000 for $7,500. The RECCO unit uses a 5-element yagi antenna for transmission and a 4-element patch array for reception … the 5-element yagi antenna … transmits the initial 917 MHz signal. … the operator holds the second 4-element antenna that receives the 1834 MHz reflected signal.