In an unfolding emergency, the need for fast and fluid access to information, as well as instantaneous dissemination of decisions with that information, is key to successful response and situational awareness. Every second counts when reviewing key information and communicating decisions consistently to local and remote teams.
Queensland Government Air (QG Air) recently launched a new Operations Centre. In doing so, they embarked on a process to look at emerging technologies and the role these will play in their operations.
Peter Heath, former Director of Network Management and Aviation Tasking at QG Air, highlights that “one of the major challenges we deal with is getting both timely and accurate information to the operating crew. In the old days we would operate on a fax system, or we would use telephone calls to do a search and rescue briefing, taking half an hour and involving only one person on the phone.”
With the continuing importance of reviewing information from a range of sources, including social media and live video feeds for situational awareness, large interactive screens have the potential to provide an engaging and immersive environment for reviewing this content in a highly interactive manner. Video conferencing has also become a simple and reliable means for communicating with remote bases. This prompted QG Air to look at touch screen collaboration software as a way to speed up the coordination of information across their remote bases.
The resulting operations centre is a showcase for how the latest collaboration technologies can be used for emergency response. The centrepiece of the room is a large, high-resolution interactive touch table, running the Cruiser software, networked to the other QG Air bases as well as a series of wall-mounted displays showing ambient information relevant to the operations centre.
“The combination of the Cruiser technology and video conferencing allows us to talk to the remote crews and while giving detailed information on the brief, annotating on maps and other important pieces of information. It provides a more focused brief, in the fastest possible time,” says Mr Heath.
With the flick of a finger, Cruiser enables QG Air staff to move information from personal devices such as tablets and phones to the touch table, surrounding touch whiteboards and a video wall, so that detailed tasking information is provided to helicopter crews more efficiently and the monitoring of crews is improved.
Dr Anthony Collins, Chief Executive of Cruiser Interactive, says “the QG Air operations centre is a perfect match for the Cruiser technology to speed up the briefing process with remote aircrews. One of the main benefits of the software is that it can be tailored to particular workflows and visualisation requirements – opening many possibilities further down the track for feeding in data from other sources.”
“It’s about improving the integration between what’s happening on the aircraft that’s doing the task, and what’s happening back in the operations centre,” says Mr Heath. “Our next step will involve live video feeds back from the aircraft while in-flight. We already have satellite tracking which is used through the Cruiser table and the video wall. Once we get the live feed back from the aircraft when the crew are able to do it, that will give us a much better idea of what’s going on – particularly for a search and rescue operation.”
A demonstration of how QG Air are using the Cruiser technology will be presented at The Australian & New Zealand Disaster and Emergency Management Conference, held at Jupiters Gold Coast on the 4th-5th May 2015 - visit anzdmc.com.au for registration.