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Smarter aircraft management

Knowing when, where, and how your aircraft are flying is no longer a luxury reserved for large helicopter fleets with cash to burn. Thanks to New Zealand-based aviation safety specialist Spidertracks, real-time aircraft management is available to anyone, anywhere. But there’s a key difference in how the company offers it–by keeping it simple.

As the world’s largest provider of portable aircraft tracking, everything the company does–from product design to how employees do the dishes in the office–revolves around the core concept of simplicity.

Spidertracks CEO Dave Blackwell said this translates into a product and service that delivers a truly delightful experience for customers.

Since its first product (the Spider 1, released in 2007), the company’s offering has evolved with industry requirements and customer demand. Spidertracks is now providing more than just real-time location of an aircraft, but it hasn’t lost sight of what drove customers to it in the first place–simplicity.

“In the past, it’s been about finding out where an aircraft is and where it’s been, but there’s more to it than that. We’re now solving the problem of knowing what your aircraft are doing when you can’t see them,” said Todd O’Hara, helicopter pilot and chief marketing officer. “We are already able to show where an aircraft is on a map, no matter where it is in the world. But we have gone even further. We are providing a connection between operators and their aircraft anywhere in the world, regardless of local infrastructure.”

Spidertracks’ commitment to increasing customer value has seen the company invest heavily in getting the right people in the right positions. Blackwell explained that having world-class technology specialists dedicated to delivering features that expand the capability of Spiders people already own, delivers great experiences for their customers.

“An evolution of Spidertracks’ first-generation communications service, Spidertxt 2.0 gives operators a direct line of communication to their aircraft’s cockpit from virtually anywhere,” said Blackwell.

“With Spidertxt 2.0 we started from scratch, listened to our customers’ feedback about how they wanted to use two-way communication and then we developed the product around that.

“If you can see your assets and communicate seamlessly across your operation, then you can manage your business. It’s just that simple.”

Flight tracking is one of the fastest-evolving areas of aviation. Driven largely by recent events involving missing aircraft and regulatory guidance from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), operators are increasingly looking to ensure they know where their aircraft are all the time, not just in the rare event of an emergency.

Spidertracks was born out of a 2005 helicopter incident which claimed the life of a prominent New Zealander. The helicopter was found less than five kilometers (about three miles) from a nearby town after 15 days and 975 flying hours of searching. The emergency locator transmitter (ELT) antenna had sheared off and failed to send out any signals–an avoidable situation that triggered a few creative brains to come up with a simple and affordable way to prevent similar incidents in the future.

Since then, Spidertracks has gone on to track over six million hours of flying. Blackwell said the average flight duration of two hours equals roughly three million separate flights in 10 years–or almost 750 flights a day around the world.

“Our biggest challenge with introducing people to Spidertracks has been the concept that just because you can’t see an aircraft, it doesn’t mean you can’t know what it’s doing,” he explained. “When people are able to see and track their assets remotely on a screen, they are able to effectively manage them.”

“When aircraft first flew, they never went beyond line of sight. As their range increased, radio was adapted to allow aircraft to remain in contact with their base. But once aircraft were able to operate beyond radio coverage, the industry just accepted that you couldn’t communicate with or manage an aircraft when it was in the air. The biggest issue we face is changing that acceptance. By showing operators that their aircraft can be connected to their operations room no matter where it is in the world really changes the game for them.

“We continue to find innovative ways to use the flight data we already have to deliver greater value to the operator. Spidertracks is fast moving from a ‘box on the dash’ to a fleet management and business efficiency system for helicopter fleet operators, air forces, tourism, law enforcement, emergency medical services and petroleum exploration operators.”

The truly exciting thing for this company is that while it has already changed the game of the flight tracking market by making it affordable and simple, Spidertracks is not done yet.

Driven by the needs of operators who want more than a heavy, expensive and unnecessarily complex system, Spidertracks’ engagement with its market and dedication to simple solutions mean it will no doubt be a leader of whatever comes next.

Heli Tech Insight Magazine 2017

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