discussion / Biologging  / 7 October 2016

Small GSM GPS tracking tags - recommendations needed!

Hi everyone, 

A colleague is after some advice about GSM GPS trackers that could be used on tigers and hornbills. She asks:

Where could we secure GPS tracking equipment using GSM handphone networks? They need to be as light as possible, as SMALL (sorry, as TINY) as possible, battery life needs (think) a max 3-4 months  tho if initial results promising could aim for up to six in subsequent trials. There was a squeal of excitement from me the other day when I saw a 'tracking' thingie that looked purrrfect ..size of a keyring holder..checked it out and it..used bluetooth! Humf!

I'd appreciate any recommendations you can offer! Given the weight restrictions, my thought was that tags developed for birds would probably be ideal?

Thanks for the help!






I have been involved in a variety of tracking projects over the last few years for the BTO, including the use of GPS-GSM tags we have been developing with university partners.

Firstly, I'd suggest that your colleague contact me or reply on this thread with a little more information, i.e. how small is small? Is there a known weight limit needed? Current of the shelf type tags designed for bird tracking will generally be 20g and higher but are unlikely to be suitable as they come as they usually are solar recharged. 

However, it would be very possible to assemble some lighter prototypes (i.e. we are currently working on a c.10g GSM tag) specifically for this application after a bit of consultation of requirements (which may influence housing, dimensions, battery size etc.).

These would need to be tested in conditions simulating their intended use as a very small tag may simply not have enough power to obtain fixes with lots of interference and last long as long as required. There is always a trade off with weight and performance.

Another key thing to consider would be the location these will be deployed and the likely GSM network coverage. Although tags would be able to log data and store it until it does come into coverage.

There are several manufacturers I know of who would likely be able to develop something for this project and it may just depend on exactly what is required and when as to who is in the best place to delivery some tags.

I look forward to hearing back, 


Gary Clewley

Research Ecologist, BTO

[email protected]





Hi there

Check out Microwave Telemetry at http://www.microwavetelemetry.com/bird/GSMspecifications.cfm

Sirtrack may also be worth checking out (though I'm not sure what GSM trackers they have).  http://www.sirtrack.co.nz/

Good luck and let us know how you go. We're always looking for lightweight, long-lasting (solar or movement-powered) GPS trackers... or even trackers using IoT and sensor networks...