More than 600 municipal law enforcement agencies have helicopters for aerial surveillance and observation, but few of them have real-time video feeds for responders on the ground. The Greenville County Sheriff’s Office was one of those agencies. Although Greenville is South Carolina’s most populous county, and the Greenville Sheriff’s department has over 400 deputies and 100 additional employees, they still couldn’t get real-time video from their Bell OH58C helicopter to their mobile command center and responders in the field. Industry standard COTS microwave systems are expensive, require multiple towers, and line-of-sight transmission. Using an off-the-shelf microwave transmission system was not only cost prohibitive, it was a massive undertaking. Adequate coverage of Greenville County with a microwave system would have required finding, leasing, or erecting towers to cover 800 square miles. The only field alternative was a $10,000 handheld receiver that still required line-of-sight connection to the Helicopter.
Frontier’s Peplink Partner Creates the Solution
The Greenville Sheriff’s department worked with Joe Schmauch of Greenville Media, a helicopter pilot himself, to find a better way to broadcast the video into the field than the off-the-shelf microwave systems. Greenville media is one of Frontier’s Certified Peplink partners, and worked with Taylor Avery, Frontier Computer’s Peplink Technical Manager to develop the proof of concept for sending real-time video to all responders. They configured a system using Peplink’s SpeedFusion secure VPN, Bandwidth Bonding, and Hot Failover. The result is a cost effective system that uses existing cellular assets in the community without additional infrastructure. Schmauch brought in Mark Robison of VITEC to improve the broadcast stream quality and video compression/error correction. With the Peplink System, the Sheriff’s department can send broadcast quality video to headquarters, a mobile command center, and directly to deputies responding at the scene in real-time. The full HD stream is broadcast with error correction and less than a two second delay.
At Headquarters a Peplink Balance 210 establishes four SpeedFusion VPN tunnels to receive the encrypted video stream from the Pepwave HD2 IP67 in the helicopter. The stream is also instantly and securely transmited through the SpeedFusion tunnels to the Pepwave HD4 in the Mobile Command Center. SpeedFusion bonds the Cellular WAN links into an unbreakable high speed connection that is more robust than any single cellular connection alone. Seeing the results from the Peplink Configuration, Mark Robison who usually works with video broadcast through Microwave transmission, was impressed with the quality and low latency.
“This use case implements Peplink bonded cellular to replace line-of-sight microwave transmission systems. It is orders of magnitude less expensive, and is more robust even than the microwave COTS solution that is currently the most well-known alternative approach.” — Mark Robison, VITEC
The system provides a steady broadcast quality video from the helicopter to both headquarters and the mobile command center, with a less than a two second delay. Over a secure CDN, the video streams are also shared to department cell phones and to other first responders. The Greenville Sheriff’s Department shares their aerial observation abilities with other agencies through a mutual aid agreement. With a FLIR camera, the chopper shows firefighters on the ground real-time thermal images from the air. The Pepwave outfitted Bell helicopter has been dispatched beyond Greenville to assist with other efforts including hurricane response. From any remote location the HD2 in the chopper can send video back to headquarters, and from there to anywhere in the world.
Frontier is the World’s Largest Peplink Distributor with more than 600 partner integrators in North America and Europe4.