Spring 2006 Issue

D-STAR Test Results
with FEMA and the US Army


Last year’s devastating hurricanes revealed huge problems with
communications integration. Here N9JA reveals how ICOM’s D-STAR could be used as a possible solution.


By Ray Novak, N9JA

I want to share with you information from our demonstration for FEMA and the US Army. I think it is about time to let the cat out of the bag.

Early in 2006, ICOM and several other vendors were asked to participate in a demonstration for FEMA and the US Army. The demonstration was designed to illustrate possible solutions to some of the communications issues experienced during the responses to Hurricanes Katrina and Rita last year.

In mid-February, the vendors and some volunteers gathered discretely to show the capabilities of an integrated communications design that included high-speed network connectivity via satellite, multiple mechanisms to transport network data, WiFi, and interconnected voice capabilities via VoIP, standard FM, and digital voice with D-STAR. The premise of the exercise was to illustrate a group of first responders actually being deployed, then having that team relay vital tactical and strategic information to other team members hundreds to thousands of miles away, and provide a seamless integration of this information into existing networks. The operation required full integration of voice and data networks, along with adding significant data capability to individuals in the response team.

While there were many items covered in our demonstration, I will focus just on the amateur radio portion of this demonstration.

Demonstration Overview: Both tactical and strategic communications relayed to the proper authorities through an integrated voice and data network.

Long-Haul Communications: For the long-haul communications, both FEMA and the US Army requested that our focus shift from HF to new and more robust communication methods. One comment that was made during the demonstration was “Why say it, when you can send it?” This underscored the importance of concise, accurate communications capabilities.
Thus, the primary focus was data, data, and more data. The government agencies obviously have satellite data solutions. The most recent solution to come on line is Hugh’s R-BGAN Satellite solution. For those who are interested, there is a great resource of information on the R-BGAN technology at: <http://www. aosusa.com/bgan.html>.

With the bandwidth that was available with the R-BGAN technology, there was a lot of normal, everyday type communications being provided via network as well as VoIP communications. I realize that none of this really pertains to amateur radio, but this needs to be shared here so you see how D-STAR integrated seamlessly into the local communications network.

Now to the core of the D-STAR demonstration! There were some specific requests from FEMA and the US Army that needed to be addressed for the first responders. Here are some of them, and how we were able to immediately meet the requirements with D-STAR’s simultaneous voice and data capabilities:

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