A Beginner’s Guide to Cable Locators & Radiodetection’s Top Products

When it comes to excavations, one of the most important safety tools for workers from various industries is the underground utility locator. It is important both for those working near underground services as well as for the owners and providers of those services. It eliminates safety risks for workers as well as any damage that can be done to the services.

One of the most prominent companies that produce underground cable locators is Radiodetection. This company was founded in 1977 and its headquarters are located in Bristol, in the United Kingdom.

Radiodetection products

Utility owners and those working near underground utility services rely on high-quality Radiodetection products for preventing risk and damage. And one of the most important reasons behind the popularity of Radiodetection Australia wide is the fact that they offer local support and services.

Below you can find a few simple explanations regarding their products and some tips on how to use them.

What Are Cable Locators and Why Are They Used?

Cable detectors, cable avoidance tools or cable locators are used for detecting or locating the presence of underground utilities.

They help workers to avoid accidents when excavating at sites when underground cables (such as power cables) may be present.

Cable Locators Work

How Do Cable Locators Work?

There are a few different techniques that can be applied for locating buried utilities, but the use of electromagnetic technology is the most common technique.

Electromagnetic cable locators can detect two types of signals: active and passive. The passive signals are already present in the underground conductors (metallic pipes and cables). The active ones are induced by the user.

Either way, the basic principle is this: when an active current (AC) flows through the conductor or the underground cable, it creates a magnetic field. This magnetic field is then detected by the receiver part of the cable locator. The signal is picked up and the handler of the tool is notified that an underground utility has been detected.

You only need a handheld receiver part to locate passive signals, however, in order to detect active signals, you need a transmitter (generator) which will induce an electromagnetic field.

An active signal can be detected by direct connection or induction. If possible, the transmitter is connected directly to the cable, pipe or an access point and this is known as a direct connection. The other method, or the induction mode, is done when direct connection is not possible. A magnetic field is generated above the ground which inducts the underground cables, and then the underground cables create their own magnetic field which is picked up by the receiver.

When it comes to non-metallic underground utilities, a different method is applied. A sonde (signal transmitter) is inserted inside the utility. The signal which is transmitted by the sonde is then tracked with the receiver above ground in order to trace the path of the utility.


A Buyer’s Guide to the Most Popular Radiodetection Products

From the most basic to the most advanced Radiodection locator, here are their main features.

1. CAT4+

The CAT4+ is perhaps the most basic and affordable Radiodetection cable locator. You should be able to purchase the receiver solely, or both the receiver and the generator in a package deal. You can also use the CAT4+ for locating non-metallic pipes with a sonde.

It has multiple operating modes, such as:

Power mode – for a passive location of live cables;

Radio mode – for detecting radio signals;

Genny mode – for the active location with the generator;

Avoidance mode – for quick locating of all of the above signals.

Its main advantage is that it is pretty easy to use – it is a simple device at an affordable price. The best thing about the CAT4+ is probably the option to calibrate the device remotely. To do this, the CAT4+ needs to be connected to a PC that has an active online connection with a USB cable. You can then run the software program and activate the eCert remote calibration.

RD8100 radiodetection

2. RD8100

While the CAT4+ is one of the most basic products offered by Radiodetection, the RD8100 is probably the most advanced Radiodetection locator.

It is highly advanced and offers the following features:

GPS and usage logging

The GPS function allows users to track the data and locations on Google Maps. The data can also be transferred via Bluetooth to a PC.


The iLOC feature allows users to control the transmitter remotely via Bluetooth at a distance of up to 450m away. It is quite convenient and it can cut down trips to the transmitter.


Much like the CAT4+, the RD8100 can also be calibrated remotely, which means you won’t have to transport the tool for calibration.


The Guidance mode displays arrows to the user which indicates the direction of the underground utility.


This feature provides the user with depth readings.


The StrikeAlert feature provides the user with a visual and audible warning that active or passive cables are nearby, and can thus prevent accidents.

CD (current direction)

The CD feature enables the user to identify the target among parallel utilities.

Power Filters

By using the Power Filters feature, you can find out whether the signal comes from multiple sources or a single source.