All telemetry companies know that when radio-tracking tag reliability is the key to a good reputation. Biotrack is no exception, and we take tag reliability extremely seriously. However, radio tag reliability is not the only issue. It is just as important that the tag should not adversely affect the study animal. Our understanding of wildlife biology is crucial in ensuring that our tags have minimal impact on the animal. In the design of radio-tags, we believe that practical experience of radio-tagging and tracking is every bit as important as electronic engineering skills.
When we design radio-tags, there are five main objectives:
- Minimal impact
The most important consideration when radio-tracking wild animals is that the tag and tagging method must have the least possible impact on the animals. Quite apart from the ethical issues, data may be invalid if they are collected from an animal whose behaviour has been affected by the method used to study it. At Biotrack we have a great deal of experience in radio-tagging and tracking, as well as knowledge gained through having designed and supplied tens of thousands of tags for fellow zoologists.
- High Reliability
We know that it takes a lot of effort to catch, tag and track wild animals, and it is crucial to the success of a project that equipment is reliable. We use a variety of procedures - and skills - to maximise the reliability of all the equipment we build. Our procedures include automated test and measurement of transmitters and batteries, and routine temperature cycling (-20 °C to +50 °C) of all transmitters as an integral part of their production. Comprehensive details of our quality procedures are given in the Biotrack Interactive Catalogue.
- Small size
The availability of ever smaller "surface mount" components has enabled us to make our transmitters smaller, and to increase the sophistication of their circuitry. Even our smallest transmitter now has separate pulse forming circuitry and a two-stage oscillator/amplifier. With a new type of surface mount crystal, we can now make a complete tag weighing as little as 0.5 g.
- Maximum energy efficiency
Most researchers want their tags to have infinite range and an eternal battery! Whilst this is impossible, there are usually acceptable compromises. Everything depends on producing the maximum signal power whilst using the minimum battery power - in a word - efficiency. We strive to achieve the highest energy efficiency possible in our tags, by using careful circuit design, individual transmitter optimization, and the most recent electronics and battery technologies.
- Good value
Good radio-tracking equipment is not cheap. Reliable transmitters are difficult to manufacture consistently, and the processes involved are very labour-intensive. The diversity of different tag configurations and the relatively small market for the equipment, means there are few economies of scale. Even so, the type and quality of data that can be collected from radio-tracking are such that the equipment can be very cost-effective. Our prices are highly competitive, and we make no extra charge for customised designs or small orders.