Our group began looking into using consumer grade radio scanners (receivers). They are a lot cheaper then the current telemetry specific receivers. There are pro’s and con’s to each type of receiver. The consumer receivers are cheaper and can be purchased at any electronic store. They offer a lot of features, such as communication with a computer and GPS integration.
The tradeoff of the consumer radio scanner is they do not have a high sensitivity for picking up faint radio signals. The specific animal tracking scanners (telemetry receiver) can receive the faintest of transmitter beeps. Having a sensitive radio allows the user to hear a signal from a weak transmitting transmitter. The sensitivity of a consumer radio scanner is around 0.4 microvolts. A telemetry receiver has a sensitivity around 0.007 microvolts.
We tested the consumer radio scanner and a the telemetry receiver to see if there is a noticeably difference in sensitivity. We put both receivers next to each other and had a transmitter collar laying across both antennas. The collar had a very weak signal due to a low battery. The telemetry receiver was able to receive the pulse from the collar while the consumer receiver just heard static noise. The test didn’t have to go any further. It was clear that the consumer receivers would receive the transmitter collar’s signal when battery is fully charged, but overtime the consumer receiver could not detect the faint signal of the radio collar.