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Relief Through Emergency Communications
by Julia MacDonough, GMV USA, Director of Business Development for Defense + Intelligence

Decision makers at all levels rely on the availability of effective and efficient communications when faced with emergency or crisis situations. Military combat, terrorist activities, and natural disasters are examples of crisis situations in which availability and performance of communications systems are critical to mission success and, ultimately, preservation of human lives. Decision makers’ ability to make informed, life-saving decisions depends heavily upon the capability to transmit and receive data when and where needed. From first responders to Non-Government Organizations (NGOs) to military assistance, all rely upon emergency communications to save lives and protect property.

GMVFig1 Emergency communications requirements balance preparedness for the full scope of emergency scenarios that could occur in a single location. Emergency communication allows planners to retain the flexibility to respond to rapidly changing scenarios by shifting resources and providing solutions that allow users to operate in a dynamic environment, all while protecting sensitive information.

The Challenges
Frequently, established policies and procedures require that resource requests be submitted a year or more in advance of any actual, anticipated need. The inherently unknown nature of emergency and crisis situations, however, prohibits detailed advanced knowledge of the specific communications requirements that will ultimately be needed to respond to such events. As a result, organizations tend to overestimate communications requirements to ensure adequate communications response in any possible scenario. One residual effect of this approach is that allocated resources, when not used to the level estimated in the planning process, may, in fact, be unused or underutilized.

Additionally, military and civilian agencies, as well as the systems they use, tend to operate in a stove-piped fashion. Independent communications systems are put in place to service a limited set of users. System design coupled with policies and concepts of operations can prohibit sharing of data and resources across platforms. Such “stove-pipes” also prevent resource sharing to provide surge communications capability when needed.

MILSATCOM users operate in an increasingly dynamic environment in which mobility factors inform user and terminal perspectives. User mobility may include user ability to change terminals and terminal types, while terminal mobility refers to terminals that change location while either offline or online. Such mobility, including Communications-On-The-Move (COTM) and Remotely Piloted Aircraft (RPA), offers unprecedented challenges.

At the same time, combat and first responder organizations are supporting a higher operations tempo than ever before, while adversary capabilities continue to evolve and mature. These factors result in ever more demanding communications requirements, while budgets across the Department of Defense and civil agencies are decreasing. Existing communications resources must be used more effectively and more efficiently to surpass adversary capabilities and enable successful, informed military and civil emergency and crisis response.

Satisfactory Solutions
Technology offers a number of opportunities to enhance performance of existing satellite communications systems to support dynamic emergency and crisis communications requirements. Integration of operations across existing communications systems can enhance overall MILSATCOM system efficiency while protecting user-specific communications requirements and data integrity. Interoperability of existing technologies is necessary to accomplish a streamlined integration. Additionally, integrated, dynamic reallocation of resources enables capability to support increasing demand by mobile users and terminals.

GMVFig2 Dynamic bandwidth allocation capabilities enable users to use what they need and to reallocate unused resources. In this manner, communications resources can be used for more efficiency and ultimately support the surge communications requirements that are typical of emergency and crisis operations.

These solutions for emergency communications can be accomplished through advanced planning and scheduling and bandwidth allocation technology that helps combat and first responder organizations navigate through the challenging landscape of emergency planning and preparedness.

Efficient Use Of Resources
Smart, integrated planning, management, and operations of existing and future communications systems can provide much-improved performance in a resource-constrained environment. Shared communications resources that can be dynamically allocated in near-real time, enable organizations to use only what they need and re-allocate unused or underused resources both in space and on the ground.

In this manner, overall communications system efficiency can increase, and more users get the communications support they need to successfully execute operations. In fact, trade studies implemented by GMV USA indicate performance improvements of at least 20 percent simply due to implementation of optimized, integrated planning and scheduling of space and ground resources for a satellite communications network.

GMVFig3 Compelling Assistance
GMV USA offers a customizable Commercial Off-The-Shelf (COTS) software solution for Mission Planning and Scheduling called flexplan, a highly configurable mission planning tool that can be easily expanded to add additional missions and resources and for efficient reuse from one mission to the next. It is specifically designed to optimize the management of multiple missions with multiple spacecraft and complex ground networks. This product covers the end-to-end planning cycle and allows users to quickly and easily adapt the system to their requirements.

flexplan can be customized to provide MILSATCOM users with optimized, automated, and dynamic near real-time rescheduling for the full suite of space and ground resources, including mobile users. Additionally, flexplan can be coupled with capabilities from GMV USA’s Smart product suite to analyze bandwidth usage and enable on-the-fly bandwidth reallocation to maximize communications support to users.

About the author
Julia MacDonough is leading GMV USA’s expansion into the defense sector. Ms. MacDonough has over 15 years of experience serving the United States government as a United States Air Force officer and in industry. She holds a Master’s Degree in Imaging Science from Rochester Institute of Technology and a Bachelor of Science in Physics from Duke University.