The renowned Royal Flying Doctor Service(Queensland Section) (RFDS) now has live flight tracking across some 1.8 million square-kilometres of outback via access to a dedicated tracking network made up of automatic dependent surveillance broadcast (ADS-B) receivers.
This huge area of inland Queensland – roughly the size of Western Europe – is now covered by over 40 SkyNet ADS-B receivers in a network designed, supplied and managed by Queensland’s own aviation technology leader, SkyNet Aviation®.
The receivers have been placed at carefully chosen locations managed by RFDS corporate partner Ergon Energy Retail.
Andrew Barron, Chief Operating Officer, Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section), says the boost to operational capability is welcome.
“By increasing the efficiency of transfer of our patients, it means they have less waiting time, and they are able to get to their destination of care much quicker,” Barron says.
“The RFDS is always looking at ways to build on our level of care, and this is another way we are achieving that goal.”
He says the previous system used by RFDS would only track aircraft at two-minute intervals, while SkyNet’s ADS-B system brings that down to as little as one second while also offering a suite of operational and software tools to capitalise on that capability.
While Australia has an outstanding aviation sector overall, the vast size and low population density of the outback means flight tracking infrastructure for inland areas is often behind the curve.
Aircraft operators must often rely on imprecise radio reporting, expensive satellite positioning or even flight path estimates. Through the SkyNet ADS-B network, this is no longer the case for the RFDS Queensland Section fleet of 20 aircraft.
Even if one of their Beechcraft King Air aircraft is 1000km from base over the virtually uninhabited Simpson Desert, RFDS flight operations can see its position with a precision of under 100m at every moment.
While this sounds obvious in the age of smartphones and GPS, those technologies rely on ground infrastructure – such as mobile towers – that simply don’t exist in the deep outback. The new ADS-B network has rectified that infrastructure gap for aviation-specific uses.
SkyNet Aviation® CEO Jon Davis says the network means people living in the remote townships, farms and mines of regional Queensland have more effective and reliable access to medical care.
“The Royal Flying Doctor Service in Queensland now has world-class 24/7 capabilities to manage their aircraft. They can see the locations, routes and weather for the whole fleet across Queensland live,” Davis says.
Barron agrees, noting that as well as providing a real-time statewide view of aircraft location, the system is also built to deliver operational improvements.
“Our Duty Tasking Officers, who are the ones directly tasking the fleet of RFDS aircraft, are already witnessing greater efficiencies in the way they can schedule and move patients around the state. The SkyNet system provides them with a whole new set of tools to be able to reduce delays,” he says.
“This really helps us manage the logistics of our patient transfer and liaising with the Queensland Ambulance Service to make the handover of patients efficient.”
Davis is full of praise for the commitment RFDS has to its mission of providing excellence in, and access to, primary health care and aeromedical services across Queensland.
“RFDS are keen to pioneer new technologies that improve patient outcomes,” Davis says.
“With coronavirus pandemic still looming, anything that improves operational efficiency has got to be a benefit to patients.”
What is the Royal Flying Doctor Service (Queensland Section)
The RFDS – Queensland Section employs over 400 people in positions ranging across pilots, doctors, nurses, engineers, allied health professionals and a variety of administration and support services. With its Queensland head office located at Brisbane Airport, the RFDS coordinates a fleet of 20 aircraft stationed at nine bases: Brisbane, Cairns, Townsville, Rockhampton, Bundaberg, Charleville, Mount Isa, Longreach and Roma. The section is part of the larger RFDS organisation that has 77 aircraft and delivers a broad range of essential health services to rural and remote communities. The Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia serves approximately 290,000 Australians each year.
Who is Jon Davis
Jon Davis is the founder and CEO of SkyNet Aviation. He has been delivering flight safety, monitoring and communications solutions for 20 of his 25 years in the aviation industry. His company, SkyNet Satellite Communications, was one of the first in the world to develop satellite services for medium to light aircraft. The Davis family has been involved in signals technology for over 150 years.
What is SkyNet Aviation®
A specialised division of SkyNet Satellite Communications, SkyNet Aviation® draws from and focuses all its parent company’s expertise to develop, build and deliver solutions for the aviation sector. This work covers enterprise-grade IT development and communications solutions for satellite connectivity, navigation services, asset monitoring and fleet tracking.