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Royal Flying Doctor Service acquires live flight tracking across entire Queensland outback with SkyNet Aviation®

July 31, 2020 Lifestyle No Comments Email Email


The renowned Royal Flying Doctor Service of Australia now has live flight tracking across some 1.8 million square-kilometres of outback via access to a dedicated ADS-B network.

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 by SkyNet in consultation with Royal Flying Doctor Service (RFDS) corporate and partner Ergon Energy.

Andrew Barron, Chief Operating Officer, Royal Flying Doctor Service – Queensland Section, says the boost to operational capability is welcome.

“It means there is less waiting time for patients and they are able to get to their destination of care much quicker,” Barron says.

He says the previous system used by RFDS would only track aircraft at two-minute intervals, where SkyNet’s ADS-B system brings that down to as little as 1 second while also offering a Day Of Operations suite of operational tools to capitalise on that capability.

While Australia has an outstanding aviation sector, the vast size and low population density of the outback means flight tracking infrastructure has been surprisingly deficient to date.

Aircraft still routinely fly “off the map”, meaning operators must rely on imprecise radio reporting, expensive satellite positioning or even dead reckoning. 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 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 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 giving 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 seeing better efficiencies in the way they can schedule and move patients around the state. The SkyNet system gives them a whole new set of tools to be able to reduce delays.

“This really helps us manage the logistics of our patient transfer and liaising with the Queensland Ambulance Service to make the handover of patients quick and 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.”

Barron backs this, saying RFDS is always looking at ways to build on its level of care: “This is another way we are achieving that goal.”



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