SPOT Gen 3 Reviewed

Yesterday I tested the new SPOT Gen 3 on a HAB high altitude balloon flight.

payload box

payload box

Preparation of payload : Like many people I stick my SPOT on the underside of the payload box lid. While the new SPOT case design is great for hikers, there is no advantage for sticking it to polystyrene lids. The new design SPOT buttons are better than those on the messenger but this wasn’t a big leap forward in my eyes.


Tracking : I opted to maintain the 10 minute position update package. The cost of having the 2 1/2 minute update made the whole package far to expensive. Up to the landing stage, the Gen 3 performed the same as my SPOT messengers. I got 4/5 location reports on the ascent and a similar number on descent; with a period of ‘silence’ when the tracker goes above the COCOM limits placed on the device.

Last Gen 3 location report at location 10

Last Gen 3 location report at location 10

The Gen 3 did, however, let me down on landing. The SPOT Gen 3 did report it’s location approximately  2 minutes prior to landing but then I had no further update from the tracker. I have no explanation for this. The payload box was bottom down and so the SPOT was facing up, but at an angle of about 45 degrees to the horizon. Ironically the SPOT messenger I also put in the payload was still reporting it’s location.

So the failure of this SPOT Gen 3 on it’s maiden flight could have been due to the antenna not facing straight up but it was not far from pointing up. And in this case it was out performed by my SPOT messenger.

It is hard to jump to conclusions based on only one flight, but there were no new features on the device that really made it stand out from the SPOT Messenger. I will test the tracker some more and I am very interested to know how far of the vertical the Gen 3 needs to be to no longer transmit it’s location. So the jury is still out on whether the Gen 3 out performs SPOT Messenger on similar functions for the HAB’ist.

flight details

Date 16th August 2013

Launch site: Buttington, Powys, Wales. Landing site: Tutbury, Staffs, England.

Payload 1100gm Photography project, SPOT Gen 3, SPOT Messenger, CATTRAQ.

Balloon 1000gm PAWAN Weather balloon














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