“With the Astro, there’s no wondering where your dog is or what he’s doing,” said Dan Bartel, Garmin’s vice president of worldwide sales. “There is no subscription or setup fee required to use the device, and when you consider Garmin’s heritage of innovation and reliability, it’s easy to see that the Astro GPS dog tracker is a one-of-a-kind device.”
The Astro system has two components: the dog’s transmitter (called the DC 20) and the user’s handheld receiver (named the Astro 220). The DC 20 is mounted into a lightweight neoprene harness that straps to the dog’s collar, around its chest, and behind its front legs. Users can also thread the unit directly onto a standard one-inch collar (a third-party e-collar is recommended for proper mounting) so that the unit fits on the back of the dog’s neck.
The system requires very little configuration straight out of the box. Once the transmitter and receiver acquire a GPS signal, the receiver automatically lets users know the location of their dog. Unlike existing radio telemetry collars, the Astro features a dog page that shows the precise direction and distance to a dog – even indicating if it is running, sitting, on point, or treeing quarry – and does it all without the annoyance of beeper collars.
The Astro also has a map page to illustrate where a dog is and where it has been – in relation to the hunter – and allows hunters to determine if they have covered nearby ground. For even more detail, hunters can download their waypoints and tracks – as well as their dogs’ tracks – to MapSource or Motionbased.com for analysis on topo maps or Google Earth after the hunt.
The Astro can track up to ten dogs per receiver at once, and the collar gives location updates as often as every five seconds. In flat, unobstructed terrain, the Astro transmitter and receiver have an effective range of up to five miles. Battery life is 17 hours on the rechargeable collar and greater than 20 hours on the receiver, which is powered by two AA batteries.
For those who enjoy keeping track of bird flushes, Garmin invented the Covey Counter. Now hunters can mark the precise location, time of day, and elevation where they encountered their quarry. In addition, users can easily note the number of birds flushed and how many were taken. The Astro also comes packed with new hunting-specific icons, to easily mark and identify bird flushes, food plots, tree stands, cover, ATVs, and other outdoor-related features.
Besides being a state-of-the-art dog tracking device, the Astro is also a full-featured handheld GPS based on the GPSMAP 60CSx – Garmin’s flagship outdoor navigator with a sunlight-readable color display and a highly sensitive GPS receiver that works even under a thick tree canopy or in deep canyons. So when the hunting season is over, the Astro can pull double-duty for hiking, boating, or car trips.
The Astro has a card slot that allows users to insert optional pre-programmed topo maps or road maps, which can be invaluable in an unfamiliar area. Topo maps give hunters an idea of the most productive areas to hunt, while road maps feature the same basic functions as an automotive GPS navigation unit – even in rural areas. The optional road map data can also give directions to motels, gas stations, restaurants, and even veterinarians.
The Astro also calculates area, which is ideal for determining the acreage of a piece of property or the exact size of a food plot. The unit has location-specific sunrise/sunset and moonrise/moonset tables (ideal for determining legal hunting hours) and a hunting and fishing calendar that suggests the best times to be out in the field.
The Astro GPS Dog Tracking System includes a DC 20 transmitter, Astro 220 receiver, harness, user’s manual, power/data cables, Trip & Waypoint Manager CD, and a carrying case. The Astro is expected to be available in June 2007 for a suggested retail price of $649.99. Additional transmitters and receivers are sold separately.