A person's credit cards detected from search-and-rescue aircraft?

The British actor Julian Sands went missing some days ago while hiking near Los Angeles. This snippet from a recent news update caught my attention (emphasis mine):

The San Bernardino County Sheriff’s Office announced Wednesday that the search will continue “by air only” using RECCO technology, which can detect “reflective material, electronics and, in some cases, credit cards.”

About RECCO technology: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/RECCO

So, if someone wants to escape detection, they need to totally empty their pockets! :crazy_face:
(Although I’m glad if RECCO helps find people in an emergency.)


From what I’ve read on this it’s seems to be more of a case of “yes it’s technically possible some of the time” and relies more on luck than actually detecting credit cards or other electronics. The case study referenced in the Wikipedia article, for instance, notes that if the orientation of the phone had been different for one of the people rescued by this they likely wouldn’t have been detected.

To me it seems more of a case of rewarding false positives because it ends well rather than something intended to detect these other electronics/credit cards/etc.

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In any case, in future I’ll be wearing my 13 credit cards and 3 debit cards like a daisy chain around my neck whenever I go hiking in the wilderness or skiing off-piste. :rofl:


I just line my pockets with uranium so I’m easily detected.

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What if the person is using RFID screening technology? (Maybe the RFID screen would actually show up more than the credit card itself.)

:slight_smile: Well you could just use hiking gear with an actual built-in RECCO reflector.

Do they know that Julian Sands was wearing such hiking gear? Or just hoping?

Looking at the claimed range of 80 metres in air, it doesn’t seem as if this is very viable in a search-and-rescue fixed wing aircraft. Maybe it’s better in a helicopter. A drone would seem to be ideal (not prevalent at all when the RECCO tech was first made but these days every man and his dog has one).

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Better than a black box!