This is probably off-topic because it's for an sf story rather than something I'm actually trying to do, but I need a real-world answer. I will appreciate your sharing your expertise, knowledge, and experience.
Is there some sort of reliable beacon that is available off-the-shelf, is easy to use, and does not require government permits to purchase or use?
It has to be quickly set up and easily guide someone to it from distances up to 100+ miles away.
'Easy to set up' can include parking a trailer on the top of a hill, anchoring it, cranking up an antenna, folding out the solar panels, and driving in a ground rod.
It cannot include anything requiring on-site electronics/rf knowledge. It also cannot take more than about an hour to deploy.
'Easy to use' would be best as a handheld unit with an LED that lights when pointed at the unit, but it can also include holding up a transistor radio and sweeping it back and forth to get the general direction.
It cannot require rotating an antenna (ala the classic radio direction finder) because it is possible that the user will have to abandon their vehicle. Things like distance readouts or similar would be nice, but is nowhere near being required.
Although it needs to be off-the-shelf for a variety of reasons, slight modifications to it are expected, most notably the addition of solar panels because it will have to operate unattended for a month or more. Any other modifications must fall within the talent/skill of a typical electronics amateur and cannot be something that could compromise the reliability of the unit.
The 'no government permits' requirement is because the user will want to practice with it extensively before putting it to actual use, and they cannot afford having their name on file anywhere. (The wattage will have to be greatly reduced for such practice runs -- the idea is just to work out any bugs in setting it up and learning the quirks of the receiver.)
Obviously, GPS would be ideal, but this is for use where there are no satellites.
I thought there must be some military surplus radios, pre-packaged units for HAM field days, or other such things, but I cannot find anything that is close to the requirements of utter reliability, ease of use, and not needing extensive modifications.
Does anyone know of something applicable?
Any help appreciated.