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Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance to get backpack comms hubs

The Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance Trust is to assist in the design and development of a backpack-mounted communications system

The Kent, Surrey and Sussex Air Ambulance Trust (KSSA) has signed an agreement with wireless supplier Tactical Wireless (TWL) to jointly research and develop a backpack-mounted version of TWL’s existing Omni-Hub multi-mode communications unit.

TWL has collaborated with a number of other suppliers, including satellite operator Inmarsat and load-balancing and virtual private network-bonding specialist PepLink, to develop the Omni-Hub system.

Omni-Hub integrates a number of technologies, including a multi-band router and advanced video management system, to offer communications capability in remote and hard-to-reach areas.

Its key feature is a multiple-input-multiple-output (MIMO) antenna pod, which combines up to eight cellular, four Wi-Fi and a GPS antenna. By aggregating bandwidth and managing the transmission, the MIMO pod ensures an Omni-Hub unit can use the available bandwidth more efficiently.

Using its high-gain MIMO technology, TWL has surveyed key parts of KSSA’s area of operations. Managing all four UK mobile networks – EE, O2, Three and Vodafone – it has already managed to achieve live video transmission in areas that were otherwise not-spots for mobile communications.

KSSA will use the backpack-mounted version to provide its paramedics with high-definition video, audio and medical data links to and from the Trust’s control centre based in Marden, near Tonbridge in Kent. It will be capable of operating for eight hours a day using on-board battery packs.

The Trust is also in discussions with TWL to develop another version of Omni-Hub for use in-flight, it said.

“Delivering life-saving advanced critical interventions in the pre-hospital environment is challenging, and we need to be able to support our enhanced care teams properly,” said Adrian Bell, CEO of KSSA. 

“Key to this is reliable and consistent connectivity, which will allow a resilient and sustainable method of exchanging audio, video and data swiftly and consistently from anywhere across our region. 

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“Omni-Hub is a very exciting advance and provides the level of technological capability that offers the potential to overcome the connectivity challenge. I am very much looking forward to the results of our forthcoming operational trials,” he added.

TWL chairman, managing director and founder Peter Morton said: “This is an important development that enables Omni-Hub to provide KSSA with a disruptive technological advance, which will enhance patient care.”

KSSA is currently celebrating its 25th year of operation. It flies two MD902 Explorer helicopters, which can attain a top speed of 150mph, with one at its Marden headquarters and the other at Redhill in Surrey. Serving a population of 4.5 million people, KSSA attends more than 2,000 call-outs every year, reaching any location within Kent, Surrey or Sussex in 20 minutes.

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