EMS Aviation’s FLEET tracking system is being used by Florida-based Heliworks Inc. to help rescue birds endangered by the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.
Contracted by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to search for affected birds and lead rescuers to their locations, Heliworks operates Bell 206Ls equipped with the EMS Aviation FLEET tracking system. The helicopters fly biologists low and close to the coastline to locate oil-covered birds while the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service monitors the Internet-based Automated Flight Following map. The map shows officials the helicopter’s geographical location, speed, heading, altitude, and flight history.
“When a biologist spots a bird, FLEET Tracker ensures that the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service knows our exact location,” says Richard Simpson, vice president of Heliworks. “This helps operations determine where to send ground crews. And that means they can locate and rescue the oiled birds more quickly.”
Although EMS’ FLEET system also offers text and phone services for flight crews and passengers on board, its most important functionality for this unique rescue mission is automated tracking. This capability lets the pilot focus on flying and helps the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service get ground crews in place more rapidly, company officials said.
“We are extremely proud to see our systems being used to rescue birds in the sensitive Gulf environment,” said Nim Evatt, vice president and general manager of EMS Aviation. “This is an example of using commercial know-how to take technology beyond its traditional field of use for an important and worthwhile cause.”
Heliworks has seven aircraft equipped with EMS Aviation’s FLEET Tracker system, which includes an Iridium antenna and transceiver with integrated GPS for flight following and a Mission Management Unit (MMU) for fast two-way text messaging, and phone services.