Australia’s Antarctica Research Stations to Upgrade Control Systems
Thursday, November 07, 2019 | Comments

A command-and-control system from Zetron was selected to provide communications solutions to and between Australia’s research stations in Antarctica. The competitive bid process for integrated radio console systems, equipment and support services was awarded to AA Radio Services, a Melbourne, Australia-based Zetron partner and reseller.

Australia manages more than 3,300 assets across the mostly frozen southern-most continent on Earth. Antarctic climate and rugged terrain make it an exceptionally high-risk environment, where facilities, equipment and supplies must withstand consistently extreme conditions to safeguard the lives of Australia’s Antarctic expeditioners.

Australia operates three stations on Antarctica and a fourth sub-Antarctic station on Macquarie Island in the Southern Ocean. The harsh conditions limit access to the stations to the southern hemisphere’s summer season, typically between October and March, when all flights and sea voyages are made to resupply the stations.

The conditions in Antarctica are challenging for the people working there under even the best conditions. Any disruptions or downtime to communications between the head office in Hobart to research stations, or between teams and facilities on the continent can be serious. Replacing antiquated radio consoles with reliable, durable, interoperable and configurable systems was a top priority.

The Australian Antarctic Strategy launched by the Prime Minister in 2016 established Australia’s national Antarctic interests and vision for the nation’s future engagement in Antarctica. It details the importance of infrastructure assets and capabilities to support Australia’s science leadership in Antarctica and commits to implement the results of a comprehensive review of Antarctic research station infrastructure and, as needed, commence a renewal program to create a station network that is efficient, flexible and suited to future needs.

“Needless to say, the geography and conditions make communications a challenge,” said Chris Reade, senior business development manager at AA Radio. “From dangerous climate and terrain, to space limitations, pre-existing heterogeneous technologies, and connection issues ranging from audible interference to service/coverage gaps and device malfunction due to severe conditions and treatment, this is one of the most difficult places in the world to maintain reliable communications. So, closely understanding the priorities and unique challenges was key to putting together a winning solution.”

The AA Radio contract entails a 12-position ACOM system, including consoles at the three Antarctic locations, the station on Macquarie Island, and the head office base in Tasmania. Zetron and AA Radio will provide implementation, configuration, training and ongoing support services under the contract to ensure the system’s maintained, upgraded and scaled as needed to meet current and future needs.

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