Heliwest – Perth, Australia – is one of Australia’s leading helicopter operators, and has won the contract to provide the Fire and Emergency Services Authority (FESA) of Western Australia with a state-of-the-art, aerial Intelligence Reconnaissance and Surveillance (ISR) system for emergency incidents.

HeliMedia designed both the airborne and ground based components of the overall system, ensuring that the technical specifications of the tender were met and that the airborne system was transferable between aircraft. HeliMedia assisted Heliwest with writing their bid which was won against several other helicopter service providers. Uniquely, HeliMedia was able to demonstrate a proven track record in delivering full High Definition (HD) live video downlinks over distances in the order of 200km, which was a key requirement of the tender.

The contract award from FESA was delayed but an airborne ISR capability needed to be flying by the beginning of the fire season. This meant that HeliMedia had just 13 weeks to modify the design of the back-up system. It was delivered to Australia along with a UK support engineer who helped to install and commission this interim system in time for the national press day and start of the fire season. The interim system was deployed most days and delivered robust, live HD video to portable receivers throughout the first two months of the fire season.

HeliMedia’s primary solution comprised the portable Video Mission Box (VMB) with a long range (+200km) microwave downlink to a fixed ground receive system installed at the FESA command centre in Belmont.

The VMB interfaces with a Wescam MX-15HDi camera system and has a 20” HD touch screen display, two HD video recorders and HD video downlink. In addition, the VMB is fitted with specialist mapping software from CarteNav. This software (AIMS-HD) has full remote control of the MX-15HDi enabling it to be coupled and slaved to other devices whilst the ISR HD mapping software itself is tailored to capture additional image processing and fire mapping features.

“We needed to carefully consider the best technology suppliers to ensure our hardware not only met the contract scope but was fully fleet compatible and re-configurable.” Heliwest CEO, David Grimes explained. The VMB remains the only full HD mission system that is transferable between different aircraft types and delivers 200km live downlinks.