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WIRELESS IN THE WILDERNESS

RURAL EDUCATIONAL CAMP GOES DIGITAL

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estled alongside Lake Rotoiti on New Zealand’s South Island’s Nelson Lakes National Park, the Rotoiti Lodge Outdoor Education Centre has challenged, developed and inspired school students for almost half a century. The lodge hosts 1200–1400 school students per year, introducing them to many different physical and personal challenges in some of the country’s most stunning landscapes. Coming largely from the upper South Island and Wellington regions, students get to experience such activities as high ropes courses, overnight camps, canoeing and high-altitude alpine camping. A challenging landscape and large groups of students mean consistent levels of communications between lodge staff and teachers are required. For the past 15 years the lodge has used reliable, robust and simple analog two-way radio handsets and base stations for communications — their functionality was well proven and they were simple for students and teachers to use. However, lodge director Russell Ferens recognised how digital technology developments were providing greater capabilities than those possible with analog technology. Groups and supervisors would benefit from having access to GPS tracking, text weather updates, private call ability and map-

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ping data — all of which could provide valuable safety and planning information. “We had dealt with Nelspecs in Nelson for over 10 years and we valued their advice on comms,” said Ferens. “We had considered a few options to pursue, including using technology like SPOT as a backup. However, the subscription fee was payable in US dollars and we wanted access to more information with radios.” Satellite phones were also expensive to buy and make calls from. They offered limited use in heavy rainfall or snow storms, and require certain amounts of clear sky space to operate effectively. “It soon became apparent to us the digital Hytera digital VHF radios … from Nelspecs had offered the best bang for our buck.” The equipment settled upon comprised ten, 10 W Hytera VHF digital handhelds, one 25 W base station, one 25 W vehicle-installed mobile unit and a computer with Smart Dispatch software installed. Smart Dispatch records all conversations onto a 2 TB hard drive.

Safety first The radios’ capabilities ticked all the boxes for the lodge’s safety and information requirements: • GPS technology provides tracking, logging and location capability. • Text capacity means weather information can be cut and pasted

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Critical Comms Jul/Aug 2015  

The communications industry magazine for the public safety, law enforcement, utilities, transport, mining, security and defence sectors thro...

Critical Comms Jul/Aug 2015  

The communications industry magazine for the public safety, law enforcement, utilities, transport, mining, security and defence sectors thro...