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Air ambulances adopt Iridium

Oct 1, 2007 Satellite communications provider Iridium Satellite recently announced that four airborne medical fleets now use the Iridium satellite system for communications links. While none of the four emergency services companies will be coming to your aid when you are at sea, this announcement does show the widespread acceptance of satellite communications. Those sat phones with their long antennas have become an important part of the communications mix for voyagers.

From the press release: Iridium Satellite announced that four major North American air ambulance and medical transportation fleets have switched to Iridium for mobile satellite communication services.

“Over the last two years, Iridium has surged to become the number one supplier of mobile satellite services for medical transportation aircraft,” said Greg Ewert, executive vice president of Iridium Satellite. “Iridium provides a unique value proposition of ubiquitous gap-free global coverage, network reliability, low-latency satellite links and lightweight low-drag aeronautical satellite terminals. Our rapid growth in this market sector is largely attributable to the efforts of Iridium’s aeronautical value-added resellers who offer innovative state-of-the-art solutions for mission-critical communication links for this industry.”

Air Methods Corporation is installing Sky Connect TRACKER systems for Iridium-based automatic flight following (AFF) as well as cockpit voice and data communications. As the largest air ambulance service in the United States, Air Methods provides air medical transport services for hospitals and communities in 42 states.

Sky Connect has also been selected to supply Iridium-based voice, automated tracking and text messaging services for the California Shock/Trauma Air Rescue (CALSTAR) fleet of helicopters and fixed-wing aircraft. The move will provide CALSTAR aircraft with continual tracking and communications for its operations in northern and central California, including regions around Lake Tahoe.

Ontario-based Ornge, the largest provider of aero-medical transport services in North America, is installing Latitude Technologies’ Skynode S200 Iridium terminals on its fleet of Sikorsky S76 helicopters and King Air 200 fixed-wing aircraft. The S200 systems will allow medics to communicate with the doctors in the Ornge operations center and will provide flight tracking and messaging. Ornge has also acquired 15 portable Iridium handsets from Latitude Technologies for additional connectivity when responding to on-scene trauma.
REACH Air Medical Services has chosen SkyTrac Systems to provide Iridium-based AFF and satellite communication solutions for its fleet, including Agusta 109A, Cessna 421C, EC 135 and King Air 200 aircraft. The SkyTrac integrated systems will interface with REACH’s existing dispatch center computers. REACH joins a number of air ambulance service providers to switch to Iridium and install SkyTrac equipment including Geisinger, Shannon Air Med, BC Ambulance and Air Methods’ REMSA program.

Through its worldwide network of value-added partners, Iridium provides satellite communication services to numerous air medical transport organizations, including Med-Trans, EagleMed, MedSTAR, Air Evac Lifeteam, Japanese Fire and Disaster Management Agency, Deutsche Rettungsflugwacht e.V./German Air Rescue and Luxembourg Air Rescue. “These and other aero-medical fleets depend on Iridium for mission-critical communications in their important life-saving public service,” Ewert added.