NOAA Satellites Rescue Hundreds in 2010

Wednesday - 2/2/2011, 12:21pm EST

Satellites - operated by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration - were critical last year in the rescue of hundreds of people from life-threatening situations throughout the U.S. and its surrounding waters.

The satellites picked up distress signals from emergency beacons carried by downed pilots, shipwrecked boaters and stranded hikers - relaying information about their location to first responders on the ground. Officials say - of the 295 people saved - 180 people were rescued from water, 43 from aviation incidents, and 72 who were lost on land.

NOAA's polar-orbiting and geostationary satellites, along with Russia's COSPAS spacecraft, are part of the international Search and Rescue Satellite Aided Tracking system. It uses a network of satellites to quickly detect and locate distress signals broadcast by emergency beacons.

Alaska had the most people rescued last year with 77, followed by Florida with 37.