Rope Tracker: Making cables visible

Ziplines for transporting hay are a deadly danger for helicopter crews, and there are over 1,500 of them in Switzerland. The FOCA's Rope Tracker makes it easier to determine their precise location.

Needed to transport logs, rescue injured mountaineers or transport food to an isolated alp, helicopters often undertake work flights in difficult terrain and carry out rescue operations at night or in poor weather. A collision with a cableway or zipline for transporting hay may result in death.

Injuries and fatalities

"Collision with cable: Helicopter crashes in Valais" was the news headline on Swiss TV in February 2024. In recent years, there have been several tragic helicopter accidents involving cables and ziplines in Switzerland; pilots and passengers have suffered serious injuries or died.
Many cables and ziplines for transporting hay are marked on air navigation obstacle maps – but not all of them. It is difficult to estimate the number of unmapped installations, but there are still many of them in the mountains. Moreover, for those that are known, the coordinates reported are often too imprecise. This is where the FOCA's Rope Tracker comes in.

Precise and fast

The remote-controlled Rope Tracker developed by the FOCA is a device that allows the position and height of ropes and cables to be precisely measured in the shortest possible time. The way it works is this: the operator moves the device up and down the rope they want to measure via a joystick. Cameras take pictures, while sensors measure the GPS position, distance to the ground, rope gradient and distance travelled. Once the measurements have been taken, a highly accurate longitudinal profile of the cable pathway is created and entered into the air navigation obstacles database.
In the past, it might take several hours to survey a cable. Rope Tracker doesn't only provide precise measurements, it also saves an enormous amount of time: five cables a day can be surveyed.

The Rope Tracker ready to survey
© Annalena Gertsch

Removing unnecessary cables

The 'Remove' project aims to remove cables and ziplines that are no longer used. Working with the Swiss Air Force and Rega, over the next few years the FOCA will be removing installations that are no longer in operation.

Further Information

Specialist staff
Last modification 30.05.2024

Top of page