Emergency Responders: Everything You Need to Know About Selecting FlyAway Terminals

Minimum Requirements of a Flyaway Terminal in Emergency Communications

Knight Sky SkypointThe flyaway terminal has evolved from both, a technical and marketing standpoint. Taking these developments into consideration, Knight Sky believes that there are minimum requirements that a flyaway terminal must satisfy in the Emergency Communications Management domain.  For a flyaway terminal to be both, cost and mission effective during an emergency response situation, it needs to meet or exceed the following criteria:

  • It must provide for easy antenna assembly that requires minimal training and experience by the operator in the field.
  • It must incorporate automatic acquisition of satellite signal (a.k.a. auto-point) for simplified operation.
    • Auto-point allows direct access to the satellite network and obviates the need to call into the Network Operations Center for peak-and-pol functionality to lock on to the required satellite.
  • It must be designed for airline checkable packaging (i.e., be IATA-compliant).
  • It must support or exceed service data rates up to 10 Mbps (downlink) and 2 Mbps (uplink).

Key Criteria to Meet Emergency Response Mission Needs

Once we are clear about the minimum requirements for a flyaway terminal in the Emergency Communications Management domain, we need some key measures that must be met from a packaging, operational and use case standpoint.

  • Datasheets and technical specifications do not tell the whole story, especially in Emergency Response situations, where answers to the following questions need to be known beforehand:
    • Is the flyaway terminal well protected when packaged?
    • How easily does the flyaway terminal’s antenna set up?
    • Is the flyaway terminal sturdy and stable during operations?
  • Reliability of the flyaway terminal during the operational phase, especially in Emergency Response situations, must be established:
    • How easy is it to point the flyaway terminal?
    • Does the flyaway terminal maintain peak over time?
  • Use case scenario, especially in Emergency Response situations, must establish if the flyaway terminal is the right tool for the job:
    • After the flyaway terminal is deployed, is it capable of long term sustainment?
    • Is the flyaway terminal capable of supporting the requisite number of users?

Integrated vs. Non-Integrated Flyaway Terminals

Now that we have established the minimum requirements of the flyaway terminal and ensured that it fulfills the key criteria to meet emergency response needs, we need to choose between two different classes of the flyaway terminal – integrated vs. non-integrated. To better understand the distinction between these two classes, we present below the pros and cons for each in Table 1: Integrated (One-stop shop) vs. Non-Integrated (Build-Your-Own).  The table also defines the two classes of terminals and highlights a few manufacturers in each class as well.



IvN table

Table 1: Integrated (One-stop shop) vs. Non-Integrated (Build-Your-Own)

It is obvious from an evaluation of the pros and cons of the Integrated and Non-Integrated terminals that depending on the Emergency Response situation, either option could work given the requirements that an incident site demands? But the key takeaway is that a Non-Integrated flyaway terminal packaged by a 3rd Party integrator provides the best solution to the Emergency Responder (ER) because the 3rd Party integrator leverages the pros and alleviates the cons of any of the flyaway terminal manufacturers.


From a Knight Sky perspective, we have developed a fully outdoor-rated compact baseband unit, which includes a VSAT modem, Enterprise IP router and VoIP PBX that can seamlessly integrate with several of these flyaway terminals. Knight Sky thus provides the following benefits to the ER end user:

  • ER gets an engineered and tested flyaway terminal with a single point of support.
  • ER retains flexibility in component upgrades and replacement.
  • ER benefits from efficient and economical packaging.
  • ER is not locked into any single manufacturer.

Knight Sky is introducing the first in its SkyPoint line of FlyAway Terminals at the Satellite 2016 show in March 2016. This terminal falls in the category of Non-Integrated flyaway terminals packaged by a 3rd Party integrator and it is specifically targeted at the Emergency Response market segment.  To learn more visit us at Satellite 2016 — Gaylord National Convention Center, Booth #1451 or check out our web site at http://www.knight-sky.com/knight-sky-documentation.html

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus… and, he needs SATCOM!

It’s that time of the year and the Knight Sky team thought it would be fun to discuss satellite communications (SATCOM) in topical terms…

santa satellite

Now, we all know that from a speed standpoint, Santa’s annual journey around the world challenges the laws of physics.   Nonetheless, Santa faces other mission-critical challenges quite similar to those faced by many real world customers with extreme needs.  Consider these nuggets:

  • Failure is not an option in Santa’s worldwide mission because billions would be adversely affected.
  • Every year, Santa runs the world’s largest logistics event, which requires tight coordination and reliable communications to pull off.
  • Santa works and flies in extreme conditions – in an open sleigh at varying altitudes, while simultaneously tending to a herd of reindeer – and home base is the North Pole in December!
  • While sugar plums dance in our heads, Santa is always in a hurry, so fast and light is an understatement. With the sleigh packed with gifts for the entire nice list as well as coal for the naughty, on board space is at a premium.
  • Lastly, Santa’s mission is covert and he is in and out of homes without alerting a soul. Despite his bright red suit and less than delta force physique, Santa works deftly under the cover of darkness to ensure that each package is in place and on time.

We believe that Santa’s vast worldwide mission not only requires SATCOM, but also a combination of satellite technologies that will meet the needs of the different phases of his mission as explained below:

Polar Phone Service

While in his workshop at the North Pole, Santa probably has a stunning broadband setup. But once he steps out of his Wi-Fi bubble, his only choice to call home when riding the sleigh is an Iridium satellite phone.  Only Iridium’s constellation provides complete coverage of the globe including the poles.  Given the extreme conditions, Santa’s best hardware option is the Iridium Extreme handset. It also features location awareness and an SOS button, should Rudolph’s red nose lead them astray and help is needed?

SATCOM on the Sleigh

While dropping of packages, Santa needs to stay connected on the data side as well.  No doubt the elves back in the maintenance shop keep an eye on system performance during operations, while playing reindeer games?  Also, real-time package tracking is a must as each present is dropped off.  For this an Inmarsat BGAN COTM or Airborne solution seems like the best fit, as it offers worldwide coverage at speeds that are perfect for machine-to-machine exchanges.

Forward Operating Base Elf

Santa can’t hold everything he needs for his worldwide journey on a sleigh packed with presents, reindeer fuel, and perhaps, even something healthy in his “bowl full of jelly” for the 30-hour journey.  Also, the diverse, global Elf outposts need to be connected to keep the logistics network fully operational and up to date.  As these mobile outposts need to be setup and torn down quickly as the mission progresses, fast and light equipment is essential.  Thus, a VSAT solution with a light, portable flyaway terminal that can deploy and pack-up quickly is needed to give the elves the necessary full broadband connectivity to their data and voice systems.  In fact, deploying Knight Sky’s SkyPoint terminal, which is connected into its ubiquitous SkyMAX Network, ensures that each outpost is indeed connected at broadband speeds and will be stood up/torn down in minutes using a single, compact airline checkable case.

North Pole HQ COOP

With such an important mission in play, nothing can be left to chance, so a geographically redundant backup HQ is needed just in case the North Pole went dark.  Since any backup location would necessarily be in a more southerly location, VSAT becomes a natural option.  Again, in this case, Knight Sky’s SkyMAX network is an excellent solution, which routinely supports COOP needs for several emergency response customers across the country.  With Knight Sky’s reliable network and helpful operations team, the elves can keep their focus on their mission and toy distribution, and do not have to worry about the network.

The Solution is… Santa needs a partner!

With the complex, mission- critical operations described above, it’s obvious that Santa’s Christmas Team needs a trusted partner that can provide end-to-end connectivity across varying technologies to ensure the mission is seamless and successful.  Knight Sky provides these capabilities in the real world to the military, federal, state and local customers every single day.  And even though a majority of these missions do not operate out of the North Pole, their criticality and complexity are absolutely real.  Knight Sky’s team is experienced and ready to meet your challenges with innovative solutions and support.  Give us a call and let us know what challenges we can wrap up for you with bells on.  Happy Holidays!