discussion / Connectivity  / 18 August 2023

Recommendations for Personnel Trackers in challenging terrain

Hi WildLabs community, 

I support a few wildlife areas in the Eastern Cape, South Africa. The terrain can be very challenging here with deep narrow valleys and thick vegetation. Cellular signal is therefore very patchy and ops rooms are having trouble receiving live location information from their APU or patrol teams that are using otherwise great apps like EarthRanger Mobile. I'm therefore reaching out for recommendations of reliable, durable, affordable personnel trackers. Extra points if they can be integrated into EarthRanger! Some of these sites have LoRa but it's a proprietary network for specific animal tracking devices only, not LoRaWAN. This is not my area of expertise but I'm going on the assumption that 100% satellite/GPS devices are our only option....?

Please let me know if you've got any recommendations that have been successful in limited connectivity. 

Thanks in advance. 


Hi Lisa,

Not my area of expertise either and hopefully I'm not way off base here as it's not a cheap tracker but...have you looked at near vertical incident skywave (NVIS) radio systems?  I was trialling them in Nouabalé-Ndoki - we didn't have the terrain issues but we did have vegetation issues - and they worked really well over long distances.  Also possible to integrate with Earthranger if I recall correctly.  

Hope this is of at least a little help.





Have you tried or considered Garmin Inreach or Zoleo trackers?

I have experience with Garmin Inreach in relatively rugged terrain in Greenland (probably not as steep as what you have).

They work relatively well. One disadvantage with the early models is that the tracking data can not be downloaded directly from the devices as .gpx but needs to take the detour over the Garmin cloud. The newer models have direct download of tracks available.

I like the fact that the Garmin units are proper standalone handheld GPS units to be used for navigation and waypoint marking and you can also relatively easily share your own location and even points of interest with team members in the field (by sending geotagged messages - not actual waypoints, unfortunately). 

Garmin Inreach is listed as an EarthRanger partner at https://www.earthranger.com/partner but I have no idea if there is any possibility of real integration.