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The future is near, and her name is IRIS.
IRIS is not just flight tracking, nor is it just flight data monitoring. IRIS is all-encompassing, giving users the capability to record large amounts of aircraft data, process it through an onboard computer and filter it directly to communication centers or Operational Control Centers every 10 seconds. The solution provides global coverage, allowing immediate communication air-to-ground, ground-to-air or air-to-air within the entire system, from anywhere in the world.
The new system is a result of the acquisition of two companies by Metro Aviation: North Flight Data Systems (“NORTH”) (2008) and Outerlink Global Solutions (2014). The combined effort will bring together NORTH’s flight data and monitoring package with Outerlink’s aircraft satellite tracking systems, adding enhanced features to both with push-to-talk capability.
IRIS is the first commercial rotorcraft use of situational awareness technology similar to that employed by the military. IRIS delivers an uninterrupted connection with constant communication, real-time flight tracking, in-flight vehicle condition data transmitted every ten seconds, immediate alerts and warnings and push-to-talk.
“Both companies have been market-driven leaders in bringing voice, video, tracking and fully integrated flight data recording to the helicopter industry,” said Jeff Warner, former president of NORTH and now Outerlink’s Director of Sales and Marketing. “Combining all these capabilities with the most innovative satellite communications system, into a one-box solution at an affordable price, gives the aviation market the comprehensive solution they have been seeking.” The companies entered into an exclusive agreement with ViaSat to provide the always-on, high-speed voice and data system.
“When we first envisioned this system, we knew that we were building something revolutionary but we lacked bandwidth and global access,” said Outerlink COO Steven Durante. “By partnering with ViaSat, a leading innovator in satellite communications, we are now able to deliver the bandwidth at a price point that will make it a game changer for the industry.”
ViaSat’s antenna, developed exclusively for IRIS, will be capable of delivering voice and video data at broadband speed. As the market develops bandwidth, that capacity could increase up to 1mbs (megabyte per second), allowing for a connection much faster than anything currently available. The underlying network, also provided by ViaSat, will be capable of operating on nearly any next generation L-band satellite network around the globe, making it a versatile and flexible option for operators. The core design virtually eliminates hardware obsolescence and protects the customer’s investment far into the future.
IRIS also utilizes Outerlink’s next generation flight data acquisition system. “The IRIS system houses everything necessary to provide the end user with a variety of in-demand features and gives the customer the ability to install our FDM safety and productivity tools, as well as third party approved applications,” said Rod Danielson, Outerlink CIO.
As the industry’s needs evolve, so will IRIS. Likened to a tablet with several apps installed, users are only limited by their imagination. The system has the capability to store several applications for individual users’ specific needs, ensuring the solution will never be outdated and always on the forefront of technology.
The vision of Mike Stanberry brought IRIS full circle. Metro Aviation’s President and CEO is known in the industry as an outspoken advocate for flight safety and recognized the value of connecting Outerlink and NORTH to create a single solution for providing an efficient way to advance safety, response times and reduce risk factors.
Stanberry also enlisted PHI and AMGH to help make IRIS a success. “This is definitely a game changer for our industry. In terms of safety, we are delivering a solution that provides all the tools you need for operating a safe fleet,” said Stanberry.
“To have other industry leaders such as PHI and AMGH on board with Metro Aviation is huge, and we are honored to partner with such great companies that share our vision of safety and technology to bring this to the industry.”
In addition, customers and users can be assured that Outerlink’s investment in the new geo-redundant data receiving and distribution centers will maintain the fidelity and security of the tracking and communication product.
“The investment in our new geo-redundant data center is our commitment to a ground-up evolution throughout our entire system. As our products and services become more powerful, our infrastructure must be able to support the ever increasing bandwidth requirements of our customers,” said Don Rucker, Director of Technical Services Group for Metro Aviation.
Outerlink will provide basic customizable analytics software with their equipment, allowing each operator to retain their own encrypted data. The most technologically advanced tracking, vehicle data acquisition and communications system in the world launches the fourth quarter of 2015.