Helitracking Connects French Search and Rescue Team Members using goTenna Mesh

Feb 28, 2022

About goTenna

goTenna is advancing universal access to connectivity by building the world's most intelligent and scalable mobile mesh networks. goTenna is the world's leading mobile mesh networking company, providing off-grid connectivity solutions for smartphones and other devices, as well as augmenting traditional communications networks. This technology enables mobile, long-range connectivity without cell, wifi, or satellite connectivity. goTenna's drive to create resilient connectivity began during Hurricane Sandy in 2012 when approximately a third of cell towers and power stations in affected areas failed. goTenna's products are currently used by over 300 law enforcement, military, and public safety agencies worldwide. goTenna is backed by investors including Founders Fund, Union Square Ventures, Comcast Ventures, Collaborative Fund, and Bloomberg Beta.

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Helitracking app developer David Arneau closes the communications gap between rescue workers using goTenna Mesh’s SDK and goTenna Mesh devices.

The Challenge

In 2018, French app designer David Arneau created a plug-and-play communication system for helicopter rescue missions in the form of a mobile app called Helitracking. The system allows communications across all participants of the helicopter rescue mission including helicopter pilots, rescue divers, doctors, hospital staff, security teams and other search and rescue workers. It guarantees reliability within 99% of French territory. 

The platform originally relied on a GSM 2G/3G/4G network and the Iridium Satellite Network for backhaul. However, when it came to areas where cell phone connectivity was unavailable, the team relied on voice radios. These were not practical due to the noisy environment brought on by the overbearing noise coming from the helicopter above during every rescue mission. He had to find an alternate form of communication that can allow pilots and users on the ground to communicate in cell-denied areas.

 Helitracking app with goTenna Mesh Devices

The Solution

David originally heard about goTenna Mesh when the very first version was released in 2014 from an article online. When v2 was released, he decided to see if it would be the right fit for his network. He only needed about 1 kilometer (.62 miles) worth of short-burst range communications between the helicopter and the rescue team below.

By using the free goTenna Software Developer (SDK) as part of his app, he was able to create a way users can push messages out to others in a rescue mission. These messages can be transferred to anywhere in the world using an LTE internet network or autonomous satellite tablet if there is no LTE internet available.

The next step was to test it with a search and rescue team in real time. He downloaded the Helitracking app (with goTenna’s SDK) on all of their phones. Next, he connected goTenna Mesh devices to various personal iOS and Android phones owned by each search and rescue team member.

Helitracking app on arm mount

The Results

As a result of the first test, all team members were able to send chats back and forth over their own goTenna-run mesh network. Since the first test, David has handed out Helitracking to over 50 different helicopters. Helitracking has helped over hundreds of rescue missions. goTenna Mesh has been used in mountains, hillsides and seaside geographical areas with no cell service. During each rescue operation, the team can comfortably stay connected with up to four people at a time in order to broadcast messages to each other. There is no longer a need to repeat themselves over voice radio. All chats are saved within the chat feature of the app, on everyone’s phones. This chat data can also be transmitted over a satellite network from the helicopter to the rest of the world. The position of the team members is also shared.

 The max range achieved between two users during a given mission was 1 km (.62 miles). During a recent city-based test, two users standing 2 km (1.24 miles) apart were able to transmit messages, but it was not very stable. After each rescue, the team was able to look back on the chat history within the Helitracking app for post-event reporting. David is interested in looking into testing out the goTenna Pro X for further range.

“goTenna Mesh is a fairly stable and a unique product. I could not find anything similar to goTenna.” – David Arneau, Helitracking app designer.