Dutch Ministry of Defence deploys Globalstar SPOT Gen4 to track and provide safety for paratroopers
Globalstar Europe Satellite Services Ltd, a wholly owned subsidiary of Globalstar Inc., announces that the Netherlands Ministry of Defence (MoD) has deployed 120 SPOT Gen4 satellite GPS messengers to track and provide safety for paratroopers.
The Dutch MoD carried out extensive testing and trials of SPOT Gen4. The device proved to be the ideal solution for the MoD’s needs, and capable of delivering superior, reliable performance in all the highly challenging contexts which paratroopers face.
Niels is an instructor at the Dutch Defense Paratrooper School (DPS) and is Safety & Quality Manager. “In the places where we do our skydiving training, in remote mountainous and desert locations worldwide, conventional telecoms networks cannot be relied on,” Niels shares. “So we knew that we required a solution based on satellite technology.”
Other technologies and solutions were trialed and evaluated. For example, four years ago, the organisation procured GPS trackers from another provider. These used 3G telecom technology however, and very soon were dismissed as unable to provide sufficient coverage and reliability.
Facing extremes in terrain and temperature
It is essential for operational teams that SPOT Gen4 performs flawlessly in very extreme conditions. Paratrooper training is gruelling and inherently dangerous. Military personnel engage in exercises which see them jumping from aircraft any time of day or night, in any climate, with full military kit. Skydive jumps in darkness require the addition of night vision equipment to the service person’s necessary gear.
The Netherlands’ paratroopers undergo training internationally in a wide range of challenging operational environments. Skydiving exercises are conducted in the rugged mountains of Switzerland, France and elsewhere in Europe as well as locations throughout the North American Rockies. Training for desert operations takes place across the expansive plains of Arizona and California as well as in Europe, all remote locations where conventional terrestrial communications networks can’t reliably reach.
“If navigation were to go wrong either on the plane or by the paratrooper, without a reliable tracker, it can take a very long time for us to locate the user,” explains Niels.
In addition to skydiving in far-flung locations, paratroopers must endure extremes in temperature. Teams carrying out Winter parachuting exercises in Scandinavia routinely endure -20 degrees Celsius (-4 degrees F) plummeting to -60 degrees Celsius (-76 degrees F) at very high altitudes, from where the paratrooper needs to jump carrying an oxygen supply.
The Dutch MoD gained further confidence in SPOT’s effectiveness following referral and recommendation from its Belgian counterpart, explains Niels.
“We often work co-operatively with the Belgian paratrooper school on training programmes; they had already been using SPOT and advised us that the Globalstar SPOT system is very reliable and could be trusted to perform well in the highly challenging situations which we face,” he says.
Some Army and Marines paratrooper teams have a separate radio-based communications system, which can be connected with satellite GPS, but this solution is expensive and not universally available to all operational units, Niels says.
SPOT’s reliable connectivity, enabled by Globalstar’s satellite fleet in low-Earth-Orbit, was the pre-eminent factor in the MoD’s procurement decision. SPOT’s ease of use, particularly in the intense context of being used while parachuting, was also pivotal. “The system needs to be practical and very simple to operate,” says Niels. “SPOT’s reliability together with its easy operation are the standout features for us; we know we can trust SPOT to function at any time, anywhere,” he adds.
SPOT Gen4 – the latest generation of the SPOT family
SPOT Gen4, launched in EMEA in August 2020, is the newest member of Globalstar’s award-winning SPOT device family. It offers enhanced mapping interfaces, more display options, improved water resistance, and geofencing, among other improvements.
Like its precedents, SPOT Gen4 features a one-touch SOS button which instantly sends the user’s GPS co-ordinates either to FocusPoint International Inc. or to an organisation’s operations and/or security teams, depending on the customer’s preferred configuration.
The buttons on SPOT Gen4 can be flexibly configured to send pre-programmed messages, with options for transmission types. Users can check in with colleagues via the OK button and SPOT can be used for other non-emergency communications using the Help button. Award-winning SPOT devices are credited with over 8,000 rescues worldwide to date.
“We’re extremely proud that the Dutch MoD has selected SPOT Gen4 to support paratroopers as they engage in their mission-critical training,” said Mark O’Connell, General Manager EMEA and APAC at Globalstar.