With their reliable, secure and global connectivity, satellites have been instrumental in military communications for over half a century. Applications have covered everything from surveillance to operation support, and monitoring personnel to facilitating mobile command centers. A 2022 report revealed that the government and defense sector accounted for a staggering 42% of the $78.22 billion global satellite communication market. Looking ahead, the global military communication market is projected to reach $54.11 billion by 2029, driven by advancing technologies, including the Military Internet of Things (MIoT).

Throughout history, military personnel have relied on secure and dependable channels to transmit vital information across vast distances. Satellites have played a transformative role in revolutionizing military communications, empowering rapid data transfer, real-time intelligence gathering, and precise targeting. To fully grasp the significance and influence of military satellite communications on the defense industry, it’s essential to delve into its evolutionary journey.

Initial Defense Communications Satellite Program (IDCSP)

Official efforts to create a military communications satellite started in 1960 and since then, the United States has relied largely on four different satellite constellations to deliver timely, reliable communications. The Initial Defense Communications Satellite Program (IDCSP) created the Pentagon’s first near-geosynchronous communications system – the Initial Defense Satellite Communication System (IDSCS). The first satellite of this constellation was launched in 1966, and by July 1967 consisted of 19 satellites in total. These satellites enabled the transfer of high-resolution photographs during the Vietnam War, allowing for near real-time battlefield analysis.

Defense Satellite Communications System II (DSCS II) and DSCS III

Subsequently, constellations Wideband Global SATCOM (WGS) network holds a significant position within military satellite communications today – welcoming a new era of capabilities and flexibility. First, each WGS satellite offers more SATCOM capacity than the entire DSCS constellation, providing a quantum leap in communications capacity.

Recognizing the system’s potential, in 2012 the WGS network expanded internationally, attracting partner countries including Canada, Denmark, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and New Zealand. According to Heidi Grant, Deputy Under Secretary of the Air Force for International Affairs, these collaborations aimed to enhance interoperability, bolster trust, and increase capabilities and capacity for all partners.

The WGS system operates through three principal segments: Space (satellites), Control (operators), and Terminal (users). The space segment consists of 10 cost-effective, high-throughput Ka- and X-band satellites; controlled and managed by the USSF Space Delta 8’s 4th Space Operations Squadron and 53rd Space Operations Squadron. The ground segment boasts thousands of tactical SATCOM terminals. Today the system provides worldwide, high-capacity communications for various government agencies, the Department of Defense (DOD), international partners, and NATO.

The WGS network is a critical part of the US military’s communications infrastructure, but it’s important to note that it is not the only network they use. The US military utilizes a variety of other networks, including the Defense Information Systems Network (DISN) and the Joint Tactical Radio System (JTRS).

Satellite Military Communications Today: Introducing United States Space Force

The United States Space Force (USSF) was officially established in December 2019, when President Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2020 into law. With a mission to “secure our Nation’s interests in, from, and to space”, the USSF became the sixth branch of the U.S. military.

The establishment of the United States Space Force had been proposed and discussed for several years prior, with many recognizing the growing importance of space within the larger context of military and national security concerns. Its creation consolidated satellite acquisition, budget and workforce, across more than 60 organizations enabling a more efficient, effective service for space operations.

One of the early successes of the Space Force was its role in providing early warnings of missile strikes against U.S. troops. Most recently, in August 2023, the USSF formed a new combative unit the 75th Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance Squadron (ISRS). The ISRS unit was formed with a clear mission: targeting adversary satellites, ground stations, and counter-space forces that can disrupt satellite systems during conflicts.

Russia and China, possessing ground-based anti-satellite weaponry, both pose significant threats to the WGS. Additionally, they’re developing a “peaceful” spacecraft, designed to reduce orbital debris. However, this “peaceful” spacecraft could, in theory, dismantle U.S. satellites, siphon fuel, and damage components including antennae and solar panels, raising concerns regarding the true intentions and implications for space security.

The Future of Military Satellite Communications

In the ever-evolving landscape of military satellite communications, the demand for robust and widespread connectivity is surging. As Mike Tierney, industry analyst at Velos puts it – “the one thing that is always needed is more comm… We never have enough comm to get after what we need to do. We need more comm to support the fight.” Notably, the government and defense sector’s increasing reliance on satellite communications, driven by the transformation of operational environments and a growing dependence on sensor data and ISR platforms, further propels this growth. This shift is evident in the escalating demand for High Throughput Satellite (HTS) capacity to meet the evolving requirements of government and military applications.

Charting the Course of Military Satellite Communications

  1. Security: Safeguarding the Final Frontier
  2. The Future Hub of Space Operations
  3. Combination of Commercial and Owned Communications


Security: Safeguarding the Final Frontier

As satellite reliance grows, security becomes not only paramount but also twofold. First, the war in Ukraine underscored satellite systems’ vulnerability to cyber warfare. In February 2022, a cyberattack disrupting Viasat’s satellite communications network was attributed to Russia’s military. Using wiper malware, the attack “bricked” KA-SAT modems across Europe, impacting tens of thousands of users, including Ukraine’s military. With cyber attacks becoming integral to military arsenals, the imperative for a robust defense strategy intensifies.

Second, the physical security of satellites demands attention. China’s pursuit of satellites with on-orbit repair capabilities raises concerns, as some could double as weapons. Similarly, Russia is developing laser weapons to target adversary satellites. DARPA’s (Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency) robotic arm, set to launch in 2024, aims to repair satellites in geosynchronous orbit and could serve as “bodyguards” against threats. Safeguarding satellites requires a comprehensive approach, addressing both cyber vulnerabilities and physical defense mechanisms.

The Future Hub of Space Operations

Beyond Space Force, plans for a military space station are underway. The Defense Innovation Unit (DIU) is soliciting proposals for an autonomous orbital outpost, laying the foundation for potential human habitation and docking with manned spacecraft. The DIU envisions the outpost supporting diverse functions, from microgravity experimentation to logistics and training. While its primary goal is currently experimentation, the solicitation hints at broader ambitions, including a military presence in geosynchronous orbit.

Combination of commercial and owned communications

The war in Ukraine also highlighted the agility and responsiveness of commercial satellites, particularly in critical infrastructure support and imaging during conflict. Commercial providers like SpaceX’s Starlink played pivotal roles. Lt. Gen. Michael Guetlein emphasizes a pragmatic approach: “buy what we can and only build what we must.”

However, in allocating nearly $13 billion over the next five years, the Pentagon signals a continued commitment to the importance of government-owned capabilities. As Mike Tierney from Velos notes: “this budget doesn’t reflect a pivot to a greater adoption of commercial capabilities in lieu of government-owned and operated capabilities.” Suggesting that the delicate balance between security, innovation, and pragmatic resource utilization is steering the future trajectory of military satellite communications.

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At Ground Control our dedication to supporting defense and government organizations reflects our ongoing efforts to evolve with the dynamic landscape of the defense sector. As a trusted partner, we are committed to offering the highest level of service, straightforward procurement processes, and around-the-clock support.

So if you're looking for reliable and cutting-edge satellite communication solutions tailored to the unique requirements of the defense industry, contact our team today to explore how our solutions can enhance your communication capabilities and contribute to the success of your mission.

When you’re dealing with an emergency – threat to life from extreme weather, a terrorist incident or infrastructure damage from an earthquake – you have to be able to communicate with your fellow first responders. But what happens if your normal communication channels are compromised through network congestion or infrastructure damage? It’s not something you can just do without.

That’s why so many first responders have satellite communications equipment as a primary or backup means of providing location data, making calls, sending messages, accessing Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS), viewing drone footage, and monitoring local TV news coverage. With no dependency on terrestrial infrastructure, high reliability and high security, satellite is the ideal communications channel in an emergency situation.

First responders have a good problem to solve, now, in that there are many more options for satellite communication equipment now than five years ago. This additional competition has brought costs down for both hardware and airtime, which is great news for Emergency Management Agencies. The only drawback is knowing what hardware to choose for each potential scenario.

That’s why we’ve put together this simple infographic; to help you navigate the plethora of choices and make the right decision for your needs. We’re here to help, too; we have 20 years of experience in delivering reliable, robust, affordable and secure communications equipment. We design and build our own hardware, but also partner with trusted manufacturers so we can match you with the right device and airtime service. Just call or email us for objective, expert help at any time.

Satellite communication equipment for emergency responders infographic

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For decades, dams and hydropower facilities have been prime targets, with a historical backdrop that traces back to wartime conflicts. During World War II, the British Royal Air Force assembled a squadron of pilots famously known as the Dambusters. Their objective was to dismantle critical dams in Germany, recognized as optimal targets due to their potential to severely disrupt water and power supplies.

However, as of 2023, the landscape has evolved significantly. The projected global cost of cybercrime is expected to skyrocket to $8 trillion. Given the substantial value of data and the potential for far-reaching disruption, energy and utility companies remain high-priority targets.

In today’s context, the hydropower and dam industries, much like many other sectors, find themselves at a pivotal juncture where innovation and cybersecurity intersect. Even a seemingly minor error, such as untimely dam operations, could unleash chaos on nearby communities, severely disrupting supply chains and causing extensive damage to neighboring regions.

Varieties of Cyber Threats: State-sponsored and Hobbyist

Cyber threats can broadly be categorized into two main types. The first category comprises state-sponsored cyber attacks, meticulously planned and financially supported by governments or nation-states. Russia and China in particular have gained huge notoriety in their persistent targeting of critical infrastructure, financial services, aerospace and defense. The move towards targeting energy companies and utilities is relatively recent, and has prompted renewed focus on the problem.

The second category involves attacks by hobbyist hackers, primarily driven by either monetary gains or a desire to cause mischief. A glaring instance is the Colonial Pipeline attack, where the company paid the hacker group known as DarkSide 75 bitcoins (equivalent to $4.4 million) to obtain a decryption key, allowing the company’s IT team to regain control of its systems.

Heightened Infrastructure Complexity and Emerging Vulnerabilities in Hydropower and Dam Facilities

The growing integration of Internet of Things (IoT) devices and sensors in the hydropower and dam sector has significantly increased infrastructure complexity, resulting in heightened vulnerabilities for several key reasons:

  1. Expanding attack surfaces: With every device linked to the network becoming a potential target, the proliferation of IoT devices and sensors widens the range for potential cyber-attacks.
  2. Device security challenges: The substantial volume and remote locations of IoT devices make it challenging to ensure regular updates to firmware and software. Additionally, their dispersed locations increase the risk of theft and tampering.
  3. Lack of standardization: Different manufacturers implement varying levels of security measures, making it difficult to establish consistent security practices across all devices due to the absence of standardization.
  4. Legacy systems vulnerabilities: Many critical infrastructure systems still rely on outdated, legacy technology that was not initially designed with modern cybersecurity standards. These outdated systems are more susceptible to cyber-attacks.
  5. Interoperability hurdles: Achieving seamless interoperability among different IoT devices and systems poses challenges. This may necessitate security compromises to facilitate connectivity, potentially undermining overall security.
  6. Network visibility challenges: Depending on the network’s connectivity and device dispersion, obtaining a comprehensive view can be challenging. This impedes the ability to detect and respond to cyber-attacks effectively.
  7. Data privacy concerns: IoT devices frequently collect and transmit sensitive data. Insufficient data protection measures can result in data breaches, compromising privacy and offering valuable information to potential attackers.

The Convergence of Operational and Information Technology

Historically, operational technology (OT) and information technology (IT) data streams were kept separate, ensuring OT systems remained ‘air-gapped’ from the internet and were thereby minimally susceptible to hacking risks. However, as technology integrates OT and IT, it presents both advantages and risks. The advantages are abundant; merging SCADA data with systems managing physical infrastructure allows for autonomous performance optimization.

Yet, given that OT systems have not historically been prime targets, they often lack robust security measures. Passwords frequently remain set to default character strings, remote monitoring for suspicious activities is often absent, and patches are not implemented as regularly as required.

In this evolving landscape, it becomes imperative for security teams to recognize these vulnerabilities and proactively take measures to mitigate them, ensuring the protection of critical infrastructure within the hydropower and dam sector.

Insights Gained from Successful Cyber Attacks

A notable cyber attack unfolded involving Queensland’s Sunwater, a water supplier targeted in a nine-month-long breach. This breach, spanning from August 2020 to May 2021, exploited vulnerabilities present in an older system version, allowing unauthorized access to customer information stored on their web server. While the hackers did not compromise financial or customer data, they did leave behind suspicious files, redirecting visitor traffic to an online platform.

The subsequent Water 2021 report underscored the critical importance of swift action in addressing persistent security vulnerabilities. It emphasized the significance of software updates, robust passwords, and diligent monitoring of network traffic as vital protective measures.


In another significant incident, the LockerGoga ransomware group inflicted substantial harm on Norsk Hydro. The attack forced Norsk Hydro to halt operations in multiple production facilities, affecting 35,000 employees across 40 countries and resulting in financial losses of around $71 million. The cyberattack originated from an employee unwittingly opening an infected email three months prior.

However, Norsk Hydro’s response was commendable. Instead of succumbing to the ransom demands, the company collaborated with Microsoft’s cybersecurity team to restore operations and maintained a commitment to transparency throughout the crisis. Torstein Gimnes, Corporate Information Security Officer, emphasized the need to rebuild infrastructure to ensure safety and eliminate potential attacker presence.

An immediate IT shutdown was initiated to halt further proliferation, and only trusted backups facilitated by Microsoft’s team were utilized. Post-attack, a focus was placed on employee training, implementing multi-factor authentication, regular updates, and resilient backup solutions to enhance security.

These cyber attacks underscore the necessity of proactive measures and resilience in the face of evolving threats. Most importantly, they emphasize the value of collaboration and knowledge sharing among industry peers. As Eric Doerr, General Manager of the Microsoft Security Response Center, articulates, “When companies engage in this collaborative effort, it elevates the collective defense and compels attackers to work harder.”

Securing Vital Elements in Hydropower and Dam Infrastructure

Securing crucial components within hydropower and dam facilities against cyber threats requires a methodical approach. Initially, it’s vital to evaluate cyber risks by identifying the key assets within the facility or network.

Subsequently, a thorough analysis of potential threats, such as data breaches and malware attacks, should be conducted for these critical assets. To effectively allocate resources, it’s imperative to prioritize these risks based on their likelihood and potential impact, allowing for a focused and targeted security strategy.

From there, we look at mitigation.

1. Protect Data Integrity

An integral aspect of security involves safeguarding data through encryption, authentication protocols, and stringent control over physical facility access. Utilizing firewalls and VPNs can be effective in securing data during transmission over public internet infrastructure.

However, to mitigate risks more comprehensively, companies can opt for private lines or dedicated secure satellite networks like TSAT, tailor-made for securing SCADA data.

Furthermore, contemporary trends indicate a shift towards a unified data stream for both IT and OT. Organizations pursuing this integration must implement robust control system boundary protection measures to thwart unauthorized access. This can include employing technologies such as SD-WAN in conjunction with next-generation firewalls to maintain secure data boundaries.

Enhance physical security

2. Enhance Physical Security

Robust physical security measures not only act as a deterrent to potential threats but also represent the initial defense against cyberattacks. Stringently controlling and monitoring physical access to facilities substantially minimizes the risk of malicious actors gaining direct entry to sensitive systems and data.

Moreover, implementing surveillance on physical access enables companies to promptly detect unauthorized entry or unusual activities, empowering them to intervene swiftly and halt any progress made by potential hackers.

3. Prioritize Firmware and Software Updates

Regular updates to both software and firmware play a vital role in addressing known vulnerabilities, fortifying system resilience, and upholding the integrity of critical software components. By staying current with updates, organizations proactively mitigate cyber threats that often exploit outdated software to infiltrate systems and compromise sensitive data.

In the case of hardware devices, firmware updates enhance functionality and bolster security by patching potential vulnerabilities. Stressing the significance of timely updates and establishing a structured update management process is crucial. Particularly for remote, unmanned locations of dams or hydropower facilities, ensuring the ability to remotely secure infrastructure through over-the-air (OTA) firmware updates is imperative.

Staff training for cyber security

4. Empower Staff through Training

Addressing the human factor in cybersecurity is pivotal, given that human errors can often create vulnerabilities. Organizations must ensure their employees are well-versed in the latest cybersecurity practices to mitigate potential breaches through early detection and swift response. A prime example is a vigilant staff member who thwarted an attempt to tamper with sodium hydroxide levels in Florida’s water supply last year.

Further, having robust incident response plans in place is paramount. Employees should be adept at containing incidents, restoring systems, and investigating root causes. Ultimately, organizations need the assurance that in the event of a cyber attack, their staff can respond efficiently and effectively. Continuous training through workshops, webinars, and fostering a security-conscious culture not only fortifies cybersecurity resilience but also encourages information sharing among peers, strengthening collective efforts against cyber threats.

5. Ensure Resilience through Redundancy and Backup

Redundancy and backup systems play a critical role in fortifying network infrastructure against unexpected vulnerabilities and disruptions. By establishing duplicate or alternative pathways for data transmission and network operations, redundancy measures guarantee an immediate and smooth transition to a secondary, secure option should the primary system or connection fail. This approach not only reduces the risk of single points of failure but also amplifies the overall system reliability.

A notable case involves one of our major clients, who has implemented satellite connectivity as their third failover (preceded by cellular and fiber options). Remarkably, their satellite setup has not encountered a single failure in 27 years, making it the system they regard as the most reliable. Given the increasing reliance of the hydropower and dam sector on interconnected digital systems, redundancy and backup solutions emerge as formidable defenses, ensuring uninterrupted operations and providing protection against potential cyber threats and disruptions.


These points are just a glimpse into the extensive realm of cybersecurity. They underscore a fundamental reality: within the ever-changing cybersecurity landscape, proactive measures are indispensable. The ability to foresee and mitigate vulnerabilities before they escalate into threats holds immense significance in establishing and upholding strong cybersecurity protocols. If you are keen on delving into your connectivity or data security solutions with our seasoned team, feel free to reach out to us at sales@groundcontrol.com.

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Iridium’s Router-Based Unrestricted Digital Internetworking Connectivity (RUDICS) emerged in the early 2000s to enable remote devices to connect to internet servers via TCP/IP. The prior system, dial-up data, imposed a substantial overhead each time the service activated due to necessary checks before data transmission.

RUDICS improved this by connecting calls to predefined IP addresses, eliminating the checks and achieving near-instantaneous connections. This brought advantages such as reduced power usage at the remote transmitter end, lower latency, and overall efficiency in accessing the Iridium system.

Over almost two decades, RUDICS has been crucial for various applications involving multiple remote units in the field, such as data buoys, water level stations, Unmanned Autonomous Vessels (UAVs), geotechnical and structural monitoring solutions, weather stations, and more.

Iridium RUDICS Applications Banner

In 2019, Iridium introduced its latest satellite capability, Iridium Certus, categorized into three speed classes: Certus 100 for IoT applications, Certus 200 for basic internet and voice, and Certus 700 for the fastest L-band internet broadband speeds, reaching up to 704 kbps.

When comparing RUDICS to Certus, we’re focusing exclusively on Iridium Certus 100, both designed to connect remote devices to servers using TCP/IP, although Certus 100 offers an alternative option here, which we’ll discuss later.

Key differences between RUDICS and Certus 100:

Data speeds

RUDICS transmits data at 2.4 Kbps, while Certus 100 transmits at 22 Kbps, with an 88 Kbps downlink—almost 40 times faster. This enables more frequent and larger data transmissions.

Costs/billing mechanism:

RUDICS charges per minute, contrasting with Certus 100’s per byte billing model. This often makes RUDICS more expensive for many applications, potentially resulting in unnecessary connectivity cost.

RUDICS is circuit-switched

RUDICS operates on a circuit-switched model, necessitating continuous maintenance of the ‘call’ between the remote device and the server.

Certus 100 is packet-switched

In contrast, Certus 100 uses a packet-switched network, transmitting data in optimized, small packets, reducing the risk of mid-transmission drops.

In our assessment, Certus 100 offers a more reliable, cost-effective, and scalable solution for remote data transfer compared to RUDICS, with very few exceptions.

Moreover, Certus 100 supports TCP/IP-based connectivity and provides the option of sending data via Iridium Messaging Transport (IMT), a message-based transmission protocol. IMT allows sending and receiving messages of up to 100,000 bytes, enabling additional sensor readings, higher data resolution, photographs, or even low-resolution video. Importantly, utilizing IMT substantially reduces data transmission costs, as you’re only billed for the successfully delivered data payload, without TCP/IP overhead.

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We can determine potential cost savings by switching to Certus 100 and navigate any technical implications that may arise.

We've been Iridium partners since 2005, providing us with the expertise to offer an experienced, objective perspective on the most suitable connectivity solution for your needs. Just complete the form or call / email us to start the conversation.
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First responders – firefighters, paramedics, police, all public safety agencies – must have communication certainty. Why?

  1. Timely instructions reaching field teams can mean the difference between a life saved and a life lost.
  2. In distress situations, personnel staying connected is essential.

But 81% of emergency managers have experienced communication failures. During an emergency, traditional infrastructure may be unavailable, destroyed or overloaded. This is why satellites play such an important role in public safety operations. In just one example, the FBI and other emergency response teams relied on satellite phones throughout the Boston Marathon Bombing aftermath because cellular service was unreliable due to congestion.

SATCOM products and services provide reliable and resilient connectivity, enabling critical communication links when LTE and radios are down. With the ability to provide connectivity in remote, disaster-stricken, or otherwise challenging environments, SATCOM has already revolutionized how first response agencies operate.

How SATCOM has transformed public safety operations


Leveraging satellites, incident commanders have a reliable means of communicating with personnel in the field. This ensures real-time dissemination of information, so commanders’ can maintain situational awareness – vital for shaping a timely, appropriate response.

Emergency response planning

Ground personnel rely on vital information regarding population density, infrastructure, and environmental conditions. Satellite connectivity enables efficient data collection, analysis, and modeling, aiding effective response strategies and resource allocation.

Asset tracking and management

Real-time satellite-based asset tracking systems provide constant updates on the location and status of vehicles, equipment, and personnel. This optimizes resource management, boosts operational efficiency, and improves the safety of field team members.

Video and data transmission

Satellites facilitate seamless transmission of HD video and vital data from Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) and sensors, plus access to extensive reports, images and maps. Allowing real-time collaboration, swift decision-making, and remote guidance for on-site personnel.

Today, SATCOM aids tactical operators with natural disaster response both as a primary and failover means of communication. It empowers wildfire response teams operating in remote forests with real-time communication, data analysis, and information retrieval. It enables field hospitals to access medical histories, transmit imagery, and provide telemedicine services on-site.

However, in a competitive market with a growing number of players, choosing the right SATCOM service and equipment can be difficult. Using our 20+ years experience supporting first responders, we’ve outlined key considerations to help guide public safety agencies define their SATCOM requirements.

Navigating the world of SATCOM: Important factors to consider


As SATCOM systems leverage specific satellite constellations and services, it’s crucial to assess your agency’s operational zone to determine coverage and availability needs.

Coverage will depend on factors like satellite orbit position, antenna pointing accuracy, frequency used, and potential signal obstacles such as tall buildings or valleys. Key players like Iridium, Starlink, and Inmarsat offer global coverage (the latter excluding polar regions).

However, Starlink can suffer congestion-related slowdowns, while newer constellation OneWeb consistently covers the 35th parallel north, encompassing Canada, southern Europe, and northern USA, without speed fluctuations.

OneWeb satellite in orbit above Earth 1


Effective communication for first responders often extends beyond voice calls. Thus, teams must assess whether their SATCOM devices require capabilities like live video transmission. In such cases, prioritizing sufficient potential bandwidth and, where needed, low latency becomes essential.

Both Iridium and OneWeb constellations operate within Low Earth Orbit (LEO), resulting in reduced ping times due to closer satellite proximity to Earth’s surface. With latency as low as 70ms, emergency responders experience near real-time collaboration.

Inmarsat, SES and Intelsat support high bandwidth applications like video calling, but with constellations situated in geostationary orbit, there is a slight impact on latency.

Control room


First responders often navigate challenging and unpredictable environments. Fortunately, SATCOM equipment can be ruggedized to endure demanding and rapidly changing conditions. Look for robust IP (ingress protection) ratings, and operating temperatures to ensure steadfast performance during critical moments.

If you need extremely swift deployment and setup, consider a case-based device like the MCD-4800, which allows responders to establish communications within seconds during emergencies.

The Kymeta Hawk u8 LEO, which attaches to vehicles, offers Satcom-on-the-move capabilities—an essential feature given that a recent survey showed 37% of first responders consider connected vehicles a top priority within the next five years.

Search and rescue team fitting Kymeta LEO device to vehicle


Emergency response agencies need to assess both up-front and long-term costs; including equipment, airtime, training and support.

One thing to consider are dual-mode satellite and cellular devices like the Kymeta Hawk u8 LEO LTE, as these generally offer a more cost-effective airtime package.

Further, investigate discounts and flexibility in various data packages. At Ground Control, we provide exceptional, flexible rates for emergency responders, recognizing that airtime needs might be intermittent throughout the year.

Cellular tower


Seamless communication between different agencies remains a top concern for our public safety officials, with 47% of surveyed first responders recognizing the significance of interoperability. Coordinated communication among federal, state, and local agencies is essential to prevent duplication and delays in rescue efforts.

With SATCOM systems, agencies can achieve interoperability in two main ways: 1. Employing an “interoperability gateway” or crossband repeater. 2. Utilizing Mission-Critical Push-to-Talk (MCPTT) devices. Planning the “how” is essential from the outset.

Local police in full gear


The transmission of sensitive data is a crucial aspect of first responder operations. To safeguard this information, the chosen SATCOM service should prioritize network security and provide robust encryption features, to ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of the transmitted information.

Look for systems and services that offer end-to-end encryption, secure communication channels, and authentication mechanisms to protect data from unauthorized access. For instance, OneWeb’s service boasts military-grade network security, and some ground stations are even located within military installations.

OneWeb ground station

Survey referenced above: Frontline Public Safety Communications

SATCOM equipment is a tool; selecting the right tool can make a substantial difference. And with first response teams expecting their job to require even more connected devices in the next five years, the better agencies understand their needs, the better companies like Ground Control can match agencies with the best possible tool (SATCOM equipment).

For more detailed comparisons of our popular portable and mobile satellite communication equipment, refer to – Comparing SATCOM solutions for public safety agencies. Likewise if you would prefer to discuss your requirements with one of our experienced team, email us at sales@groundcontrol.com.

Ready to take the next step?

With Ground Control, our customers have access to individuals who have not only been working in SATCOMS for over 20 years, but those who have been working alongside first responders for over 20 years. Some of us were even first responders in a previous life.

So if you are reviewing satellite communication equipment and would like some objective advice, simply fill in the form and one of our expert team will get back to you.

Sadly, the frequency and severity of disasters in the United States is increasing. Most recently, the nation’s deadliest wildfire in more than a century tore through Maui with devastating affect. As Scott Bowman, acting deputy CIO for FEMA, explains “multiple factors — including type, size and scope of the disaster — drive the use of specific communication methods.” So while SATCOM systems won’t be required for every emergency situation, speedy communications and strong connectivity will be. Whether you’re considering a SATCOMS solution as a primary communication tool or as an indispensable backup, our dedicated team is here to provide you with the information needed to make a well-informed and strategic choice.

Exploring in-demand portable SATCOM solutions

Portable SATCOM systems offer the flexibility necessary for dynamic environments. Designed to be easily transported and deployed, portable SATCOM systems enable first responders to establish vital communication links wherever they are needed most.

Service provider:
Physical Dimensions:
Main Case (LxWxH): 61.25″ x 21.75″ x 16″ | 149 lbs / 160 lbs
(LxWxH): 17″ x 13.75″ x 6.75″ | 25.3 lbs
(LxWxH): 20.66″ x 17.20″ x 8.40″ | 36.4lbs
(HxWxD): 7.8″ x 7.8″ x 1.6″ | 3.1lbs
Mains / Car Battery
Battery 5 hours
Battery 6 hours
Battery 3.5 hours
Portable auto-pointing VSAT antenna
Class 11 Antenna (autopointing)
HGA-2 Antenna (autopointing)
Dual band: GNSS & BGAN
Connectivity Speed:
20Mbps x 5Mbps
Up to 464 Kbps down, 448 Kbps up
Up to 700Kbps down, 352Kbps up
Up to 464Kbps down, 448Kbps up
Average Setup Time:
3.5 minutes | 5/10 minutes setup on ground with/without bracketing
1 minute
1 minute
>5 minutes

Key Features:

Wireless Network up to 100-foot
Wireless Security: WPA (TKIP) WPA2 (AES) + WEP 64 and 128bit
Latency: 500-650ms, ideal for VoIP
Operating Temperatures: -20°F to 140°F at 100% humidity
Wind speeds: 20MPH without added weight (.98m dish)
Streaming Services: Available on demand
Integrated wireless 4 port router
Universal “Fly-And-Drive” bracketing

WiFi hotspot up to 100 meters
Wireless Security: WPA2 and MAC address whitelist
Operating Temperatures: -25°C to +70°C (-13°F to 158°F)
Humidity: 95% RH at +40°C
Streaming Services: 32Kbps, 64Kbps, 128Kbps
External Ports: 1 x RJ45 LAN / PoE, 1 x RJ11 Phone, 1 x AC/DC external power, optional 3 x RJ11 for Fax group support
Ingress Protection: IP67
Operates stationary or in-motion
Includes standard analog phone

WiFi hotspot up to 300 meters
Wireless Security: WPA2 and MAC address whitelist
Operating Temperatures: -30°C to +55°C (-22°F to +131°F)
Humidity: 95% RH at +40°C
Streaming Capability: 256 Kbps
External Ports: 2 x RJ45 LAN / PoE, 1 x RJ45 WAN, 1 x RJ14 Phone, 1 x AC/DC external power
Ingress Protection: IP66
Certifications: MIL-STD-810G
Operates stationary or in-motion
Includes standard analog phone

WiFi hotspot up to 100 meters
Operating Temperatures: -25°C to +55°C (-13°F to +131°F)
Humidity: 95% non-condensing at +40°C (+104°F)
Streaming IP Data: 32, 64, 128 kbps
External Ports: USB port for Ethernet, or recharging port for other devices
Ingress Protection: IP66
EXPLORER Connect App: convert smart device into satellite phone, terminal access and pointing assistance

Service provider:

Popular SOTM (Satellite-On-The-Move) equipment

SOTM systems maintain uninterrupted communication while in motion, ideal for vehicles, aircraft and even marine vessels. There has been some really exciting developments here of late, particularly with the Kymeta u8 LEO. Leveraging the OneWeb network, this innovative device is making global mobile connectivity a reality. No lag, no dropouts, no experience of slowed speeds during busy periods – just consistent, high throughput connectivity.

Service provider:
Physical Dimensions:
(LxWxH): 35.2" × 35.2" × 5.5"
| ~68 lbs
Terminal (HxWxD): 2.3″ x 12″ x 9″ | 7.5 lbs
Antenna (HxØ): 4.1″ x 14.5″ | 6.2 lbs
Transceiver (HxWxD): 1.8″ x 11″ x 9.2″ | 5.1 lbs
Antenna: (HxØ) 6″ x 18.8″ | 12.1 lbs
Transceiver: 1.67″ x 9.72″ x 10.63″ | 5.5lbs
Antenna: (HxØ) 6.3″ x 18.76" | 13.2lbs
Integrated ACU and power supply | 12 VDC to 36 VDC
10–32 VDC OR AC/DC supply with 12 VDC
12 or 24VDC vehicle power
10.5-32VDC input 150W max
Electronically scanned array
Electronically steered phased array
C10 Antenna
Mechanical tracking antenna
Connectivity Speed:
Up to 150Mbps x 30Mbps in-motion / parked
Up to 704kbps down, 352kbps up
Up to 492Kbps
Up to 492 kbps
Install Difficulty:

Key Features:

No moving parts
Less than 100W nominal power consumption
Operating Temperatures: -40°C to +70°C with shroud; equivalent to +55°C + solar loading
Scan Angles: Az 360°, El +15° to +90°
Ingress Protection: IP66
Low-Profile Design: Mount high-speed internet on vehicles/trucks/RVs that need speed
LTE configuration offers cellular and WiFi connection options

WiFi range up to 300 meters
Wireless Security: WPA2 with MAC address whitelisting
Operating Temperatures: -30°C to +55°C (-22°F to +131°F)
Streaming Capability: 256 Kbps
LAN: 3 RJ-45 Ethernet Ports with PoE (Power over Ethernet Class 2)
Ingress Protection: IP66 (Antenna), IP31 (Terminal)
Certifications: MIL-STD-810G

Wireless Security: Port forwarding, MAC filtering, Firewall tasks
Operating Temperature: -13°F to 131°F (-25°C to 55°C)
Humidity: 95% RH at +40° C
Streaming CIR 1:1: 32, 64, 128, and 256 Kbps (both directions)
Global Voice via RJ11 phone port

Operating Temperatures: -25°C to +55°C (-13°F to +131°F)
Streaming CIR 1:1: 32, 64, 128 and 256Kbps up to 450Kbps BGAN X-Stream when stationary
Voice/Premium Voice : 4 kbps AMBE +2 / 3.1 kHz audio, 64Kbps
LAN Interface: 4 x RJ45 10/100 Mbps ethernet connections
Ingress Protection: IP56 (Antenna), IP30 (Transceiver)
4 RJ-45 Ethernet ports for multiple device connections
Includes IP handset

Service provider:

Hopefully the tables above give you some idea of the types and scope of SATCOM systems available. At Ground Control our expertise spans over 20 years in satellite communications, and more than two decades supporting and collaborating with first responders. Some of us have even served as first responders in our previous roles. So if you’re evaluating satellite communication equipment and seeking unbiased advice, feel free to reach out to us at sales@groundcontrol.com, or click to view our entire product collection.

Further, even with the comprehensive information provided above, we always emphasize the importance of practical testing. Our team has hands-on experience with various SATCOM models, and we subject all devices to rigorous internal assessments. However, the real-world operational landscape is multifaceted, with diverse environmental factors and geographic conditions that require careful consideration. So in all cases, we strongly recommend agencies test equipment on site, with their people, under conditions closely mirroring those encountered in the field. Effective preparedness demands a comprehensive approach aligned with the dynamic nature of emergency operations.

Maintaining satellite communications equipment

Finally, regular maintenance, proactive troubleshooting, and proper training are key to maximizing the performance and longevity of your satellite communications equipment. These systems can be expensive, we’d argue not as expensive as you think, but we understand how important it is for equipment to uphold effective performance. So with that in mind, below are some simple maintenance tips to ensure you get the most out of your devices.

1. Regularly inspect and test equipment

  • Conduct routine inspections of your satellite communications equipment to identify any signs of wear and tear, loose connections, or physical damage
  • Test network connectivity checking signal strength and quality, data transfer rates and satellite alignment

2. Check and apply new software and hardware updates to ensure optimal performance and security.
3. Monitor battery performance

  • Follow manufacturer guidelines for charging, storage and replacement of batteries
  • Conduct periodic battery tests and quickly replace aging or faulty batteries

4. Train team members on the proper operation, maintenance and troubleshooting of all communications equipment. Encourage prompt reporting of issues and/or abnormalities.
5. Implement backup and/or redundant systems, mitigating risks associated with equipment failure and/or service disruption. Ensure these are also included in regular inspections and tests.

Ready to take the next step?

With Ground Control, you're not only in capable hands backed by over 20 years of SATCOMS expertise, but you also have access to flexible and discounted packages tailored specifically for first responders.

For more information on any of our products or available airtime packages, fill in the form and our experienced team will get back to you.

The offshore wind energy sector is rapidly expanding, with pioneering nations like the UK, Germany, and the Netherlands, followed by China leading the world with an impressive 23.9 GW offshore wind energy production capacity. Recognizing its potential, the United States, under President Biden’s leadership, has committed to constructing 30 GW of offshore wind projects by 2030, a move that could power more than 10 million homes with clean energy. Brazil also joins the ranks with an ambitious plan for 72.2 GW capacity, second only to the UK’s planned additional 78.5 GW.

Offshore wind power offers distinct advantages, including consistent high wind speeds unobstructed by terrain or buildings, resulting in reliable energy output. However, this comes with significant costs. The harsh marine environment exposes turbines to corrosion and oxidation, leading to higher risks of damage. Repairing offshore turbines is not only more complex but also more expensive and hazardous compared to onshore wind. Consequently, offshore wind production costs exceed those of solar or onshore wind, with floating turbines costing $133 per megawatt hour and fixed-bottom turbines at $78 per megawatt hour, compared to $34 per megawatt hour for onshore wind.

We firmly believe that satellite Internet of Things (IoT) technology holds the key to addressing these challenges and ushering in a new era of efficiency and safety. Satellite IoT has the potential to reduce production costs and enhance worker safety in offshore wind energy. In the following sections, we will explore the transformative role that satellite IoT can play in this vital industry.

Why offshore wind costs more

Nearly 38% of offshore wind farm expenses go towards maintenance. Let’s dig into the reasons behind this.

  • One key reason for higher costs is equipment failure. On average, each turbine has about 8.3 issues every year. These include 6.2 minor fixes, 1.1 major repairs, and 0.3 instances where major parts need replacing. All of these repairs add up, making the expenses go up.
  • Maintenance crews are a big part of the cost. Major replacements take around 116 days and need 9 technicians. Minor fixes take 7 days with 3 technicians. Bad weather often causes delays (“no access days”), making maintenance take longer and costing more.
  • As equipment gets older, costs go up even more. According to some analysts, the yearly operating costs start at $234,000 per MegaWatt in the beginning but can jump to $542,000 per MW/Year when the turbine is 15 years old.

Reducing costs: the solution lies in predictive maintenance

The most effective way to cut these expenses is through predictive maintenance. Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) systems allow operators to watch for problems or reduced performance and use advanced data analysis to foresee maintenance needs.

Predictive tools like Condition Monitoring Systems (CMS) play a crucial role. These systems gather and study around 250 physical data points, such as torque and force measurements, noise patterns, electrical strain, oil quality, and main bearing health. Sensors collect this information, and then AI or machine learning make the predictions more precise while reducing false alerts as the system becomes more established and the number of installations grows.

The advantages of using CMS are easy to understand. One provider of monitoring systems asserts that 90% of developing issues are detected 5 months before they become a problem, leading to a 175% annual return on investment due to less downtime and up to a 50% decrease in urgent maintenance trips.

Predictive maintenance drives 175% annual ROI for offshore wind farms

Moreover, enhancing quality control diminishes the chances of accidents, ultimately leading to potential reductions in insurance costs.

An integral component of this procedure involves sending sensor data to the cloud and subsequently to the client’s IT system, where the data is gathered, stored, and analyzed.

Typically, sensor data is transferred via underwater cables, providing numerous advantages: it’s swift, secure, and offers cost-effective transmission of substantial data volumes. Nevertheless, wired communication does come with certain drawbacks that can be mitigated through the implementation of a wireless alternative at the same location.

Why have both wired and wireless networks in an offshore wind farm?

For those who already have a wired connection to their wind farm, integrating a wireless system as a complement is a strategic consideration. Integrating new sensors into a wireless network is far less complex than adding points to an existing legacy system. To capture essential data, you simply position your sensors where needed and activate them. This eliminates the need for extensive cabling, resulting in both time and cost savings, and expediting access to additional sensor data.

Furthermore, by establishing a dedicated wireless network for your SCADA data, you ensure independent transmission of findings, unaffected by other data sources. This real-time information empowers maintenance teams to make prompt decisions on which issues to address and when. According to Turbit, this swift action can boost output by up to 5% through faster corrective measures.

While creating a new offshore wind farm with exclusive wireless connectivity can cost as little as 10% of the wired alternative and has quicker implementation, it’s important to note that satellite and cellular connections typically involve monthly usage fees and are suitable for relatively moderate data volumes. Hence, a blend of wired and wireless setups is often explored by operators in practice.

However, introducing a wireless network isn’t always straightforward for offshore wind farms, particularly when they exceed the reach of cellular networks. While 4G/LTE services generally extend up to 12 nautical miles from the coast, wind farms can be situated as far as 43 miles offshore, resulting in a coverage gap.

This gap can be bridged with a private cellular network, offering substantial throughput and robust data security. Nevertheless, the setup process for this option can be both expensive and time-consuming.

Exploring effective wireless connectivity: LoRaWAN and satellite synergy

A blend of LoRaWAN technology and satellite connectivity is gaining considerable traction for this purpose. LoRa networks are easy to establish and cover a wireless span of approximately 16km. Engineered specifically for IoT data, LoRa-enabled sensors boast prolonged battery life while handling smaller data volumes.

The process involves aggregating sensor data from each turbine in a LoRaWAN gateway and then employing a single satellite transceiver to dispatch the data to the cloud. Modern technology readily facilitates this integration. For instance, a device like the RockREMOTE Rugged, equipped with an omni-directional antenna, can be positioned on a turbine, maintaining a consistent connection via the Iridium satellite network. This connectivity remains unaffected even if the turbine shifts position.

This combined approach, blending a Wide Area Network with satellite connectivity, minimizes the necessity for individual hardware on most turbines to connect to the satellite network. Only a single ‘master’ turbine, along with the gateway, requires this specific hardware. The gateway additionally contributes to reducing data transmission costs by offering edge computing capabilities. This may entail reporting exceptional occurrences, where only data points falling outside predetermined parameters are transmitted.


Is satellite data transmission expensive?

The landscape of satellite data transmission has undergone a significant shift due to the emergence of new operators such as Starlink and the forthcoming Amazon Kuiper Project. This influx has led to a substantial reduction in the cost of utilizing satellite networks for data transmission. Long-standing network operators, with a track record of reliability, have diversified their offerings to remain competitive against these newcomers (read more about satellite connectivity costs).

Additionally, it’s worth noting that partnering with established network operators like Iridium and Inmarsat comes with an extra advantage. Their data transfer mechanisms hold the trust of governments and militaries across the globe. Given that wind farms qualify as critical national infrastructure and are projected to become more appealing targets for cyber-crime in the near future, having access to highly secure data transfer options carries significant importance.

Who else gains from wireless sensor data transmission?

Beyond the operations team that interprets and acts on the recommendations provided by the Condition Monitoring Systems (CMS), there’s another group that benefits from wireless sensor data and analysis: the maintenance crews. These essential individuals, often stationed on offshore support vessels (OSVs), play a pivotal role in ensuring the seamless execution of offshore projects.

The same data collected by sensors and sent via satellite to the cloud can also be transmitted to the OSVs. This direct data transfer empowers maintenance crews to efficiently prioritize tasks without waiting for instructions from onshore teams. Real-time measurements of wind, humidity, wave height, and weather patterns are crucial for the safety of these maintenance workers. This sensor data doesn’t need to be sent through the main fiber communication channel, as it is vital information chiefly for the maintenance teams.

Recommended satellite IoT hardware for OSVs

While offshore support vessels (OSVs) often employ robust VSAT systems for crew communication, we suggest adopting a separate, lighter-weight system for transmitting IoT and tracking data. This approach serves as a fail-safe measure and optimizes bandwidth utilization.

The Thales VesseLINK emerges as an excellent solution for this purpose. It leverages the Iridium satellite network, which boasts 100% global coverage, and employs omni-directional antennas. This eliminates the need for realigning the device as the OSV changes position. The network’s Low Earth Orbit (LEO) configuration ensures low latency, clocking in at under one second. Moreover, the use of the L-band frequency for data transmission, impervious to weather conditions, makes Iridium-enabled devices well-suited for mission-critical data.

The Thales VesseLINK comes in two versions: VesseLINK 200 and VesseLINK 700. The distinction lies in data speeds. The former is optimized for IoT data and basic voice/internet access, delivering data speeds of 176 Kbps. The latter offers high-speed internet with speeds of 700 Kbps and establishes a WiFi hotspot covering a range of 300 meters. While it’s capable of far more than just transmitting IoT data, it excels in doing so under any circumstances.


Another satellite transceiver worth considering is the RockSTAR. This portable device can link up with wearable sensors such as heart rate and body temperature monitors. It also offers two-way messaging and an SOS feature. Utilizing the Iridium satellite network, this data can be sent to safety teams, enabling prompt interventions when necessary.

Primary, secondary, or backup communication

A crucial aspect to consider in satellite connectivity for your offshore wind farm is its value as a backup communication method in case your main connection to the turbines encounters issues. Underwater cables are susceptible to damage from trawlers, environmental factors, or even deliberate sabotage. With satellite serving as a contingency, you retain the ability to both halt or initiate turbine operations and communicate with your personnel. This instant infrastructure remains impervious to weather conditions, remains independent of terrestrial networks, and maintains a high level of security.

Talk to the experts

Having collaborated with both renewable energy firms and instrumentation manufacturers for decades, we've witnessed the transformative evolution of satellite IoT over the years. This evolution is now unfolding at an unprecedented pace.

We stand ready to assist you in navigating this dynamic landscape, aiding you in making informed decisions that will yield lasting benefits well into the next decade. Reach out to us, and we'll offer you unbiased, expert guidance to propel your endeavors forward.

Although the Mining industry has been ahead in leveraging advanced analytics and AI for its operational technology, the Forestry sector has been slower in adopting digital data capture, automated operations, and optimized decision-making facilitated by advanced analytics. However, there is a shift happening.

According to a 2018 article by McKinsey, the growing technical expertise of Forestry’s primary customers, such as pulp, paper, transportation, sawmills, and timber traders, has prompted the adoption of precision farming technologies. Moreover, some pioneers in the industry have already embraced these technologies, using higher yields and cost reductions as a strategic edge. As a result, the Forestry sector is beginning to catch up with its counterparts in the mining field and is embracing the potential of modern technologies to enhance its operations.

Real-time data capture has proven its worth in the evolving mechanized harvesting cut-to-length (CTL) system, primarily found in Scandinavia. Traditionally, a chainsaw operator would fell trees and create logs on-site. These logs were then transported to the roadside using wheeled skidders or cable systems, involving risky tasks for operators dealing with potential runaway trunks and navigating debris. Decisions on log grades were made based on basic specifications and prices with minimal automation.

CTL technology now involves a fully mechanized system where a harvester fells trees and creates logs simultaneously. These logs are then transported to the roadside by a forwarder. This entire system relies on digital data, as cutting instructions are sent in real-time to the harvesters. Onboard computers equipped with sensors assess the trunk’s shape and quality, enabling optimization of log grades produced from each tree. Additionally, real-time data allows visualization of production data, machine productivity, fuel efficiency, and other performance indicators.

The benefits are twofold. First, it enhances operational safety and efficiency. Second, it empowers management with greater control, leading to an optimized supply chain, quicker value recovery, and improved planning for future crops. By collecting data on grade outturn from a specific site, informed decisions can be made regarding tree species to plant, suitable fertilization regimens, and the best harvesting time. In essence, it enables optimized decision-making through advanced analytics and insights.

CTL System

Why connectivity is holding Forestry back

The main hindrance to utilizing smart industrial equipment in forestry is the lack of connectivity, which prevents seamless data exchange between machines, personnel, and central data centers. Approximately 60% of forestry operations suffer from inadequate cellular coverage, which hampers the timely flow of information from the forest to data centers. This limitation also prevents the adoption of productivity tracking technologies used in other industries like agriculture.

“Approximately 60% of forestry operations suffer from inadequate cellular coverage”

The issue of poor cellular coverage is particularly acute in remote locations, such as woodlands, mine pits, or agricultural fields, where it is often either patchy or entirely unavailable, leading to disconnection of remote teams and machines. To address this challenge, recent developments in forestry have explored the use of geostationary (GEO) satellite technology.

In a trial project conducted in 2021, FPInnovations and its partners tested a mobile, private LTE (cellular) network in the forest. They set up an LTE base station at the edge of a cut block, using a 98′ (30-meter) portable cell tower, omnidirectional antenna, and tower-mounted amplifier to enhance signal strength for extended coverage. The LTE system was then connected to the internet through a satellite terminal.

The trial successfully covered a 6 mile (10 km) radius with one cell tower, allowing devices like cell phones, tablets, and telematics to communicate with it even while in motion. The crucial backhaul of data was provided by the GEO satellite service. However, this solution entails significant initial investment costs, and the use of geostationary satellites has its limitations. Maintaining a clear line of sight to geostationary satellites, positioned at an altitude of 35,786 km above Earth, can be challenging in mountainous and wooded areas.

As a step forward, the project’s evolution aims to leverage a satellite transceiver that communicates with satellites in Low Earth Orbit (LEO), which should offer improved performance and overcome some of the limitations posed by GEO satellites.

LEO satellites' value-add to Forestry operations

With satellites in geostationary orbit, your satellite transceiver ‘talks’ to the same satellite all the time, and must have clear line-of-sight to it. That presents challenges if your device is on the move, or if your operation is in heavily wooded or mountainous areas. This is obviously a consideration, then, for Forestry operations.

A solution to this challenge is to look at a satellite network operator like Iridium, which employs a mesh of LEO satellites that can communicate with each other. Data is passed from one satellite to another until it reaches its final destination. That means you can use an omni-directional antenna that doesn’t need to be pointed towards a specific satellite; the signal will get picked up by whatever satellite is passing overhead, and passed on.

This dynamic network is particularly well-suited for mobile IoT applications and is perfect for heavy machinery or operations that frequently change locations, such as transitory logger camps in remote areas. The Iridium Certus 100 service, utilizing LEO satellites, can provide consistent connectivity even in very remote forest regions where conventional cellular or GEO satellite coverage might be limited or unavailable.


How does this impact the implementation of precision forestry technologies?

The availability of reliable satellite connectivity, whether as the primary data connection or as a backup for cellular or LoRa networks, lays the groundwork for the development of smart precision forestry technologies, offering numerous digital operational capabilities.

A crucial aspect is the continuous flow of data between high-precision heavy machinery and controllers. This data may include sensory information, such as detecting sudden movements or hazardous objects in the logging zone, identifying workflow disruptions, or detecting significant mechanical malfunctions. Additionally, remote monitoring, diagnostics, and troubleshooting of heavy machinery can provide early warnings for maintenance needs, reducing downtime and costs, while enhancing operational efficiency.

Satellite delivers instant infrastructure

Taking steps towards digitization in forestry involves considering the scale of investment relative to the size of the logging operation. For those curious about implementing precision forestry technology and exploring the benefits of automation, satellite IoT devices offer a quick and cost-effective means of backhauling data from individual machines. The scalability of these devices allows logging operations to transition incrementally from analog to digital, depending on the volume of data that needs to be transferred and the criticality of the information being communicated between the field and the base or man and machinery.

The choice of satellite service depends on the specific use case and budget considerations. For example, automated machinery necessitates constant data connectivity for safety and autonomous decision-making, while maintenance alerts might only require periodic reporting on an exception basis. Our technical team can provide guidance on selecting the most suitable satellite service to support operational needs effectively.

The RockREMOTE Rugged presents an excellent opportunity to test the advantages of satellite connectivity in a forestry setting. Encased in durable aluminum, this device is designed to withstand even the harshest environments. When attached to remote assets like Foresters or Harvesters, it facilitates the transfer of satellite data for predictive and preventative maintenance analytics.

For customers with small to moderate Industrial IoT data needs, Iridium’s IMT message-based service offers a cost-effective option for data transfer. However, for more data-intensive applications and real-time monitoring, the device can connect via the Iridium Certus 100 Airtime service, which allows data transfer of up to 200 MB per month at speeds of 22 Kbps up and 88 Kbps down (Certus 200 and 700 plans allow for substantially more data, including voice, if required).

A key advantage of this device is its ability to maintain a reliable connection while on the move and transmit data from anywhere with an unobstructed view of the sky. Additionally, if your devices and assets are already connected to an LTE Cat 1 or Cat 4 cellular network, the RockREMOTE Rugged device offers automatic WAN to satellite failover, ensuring continuous connectivity even if the primary network experiences issues.

Overall, the RockREMOTE Rugged device offers a robust and efficient solution for leveraging satellite connectivity in forestry operations, enabling the transfer of valuable data for improved maintenance practices and operational efficiency.

The process of digitizing forestry opens up numerous opportunities for leveraging data insights and applications. These opportunities span across various areas, such as advanced forest mapping, sensor-controlled environments in forests and nurseries, as well as the use of drones or UAVs for fire monitoring and precision forestry inventory. In this context, satellite connectivity plays a vital role by providing the immediate and essential infrastructure required to test and scale these innovative projects. By leveraging satellite connectivity, forestry operations can effectively harness the power of real-time data to drive efficiency, sustainability, and informed decision-making in their practices.

Discover the full potential of your data

If you're interested in leveraging data to enhance your operations, feel free to reach out to us. Our technical team is here to support you, regardless of the project's size or the questions you may have. Let's collaborate to bring innovation and efficiency to your forestry endeavors. Contact us today!

Satellite IoT is experiencing a major boom, with numerous new companies entering the market and big players like Starlink and Amazon’s Kuiper making significant moves. This surge in satellite network operators is leading to rapid advancements and innovations. In this post, tailored for sensor manufacturers supporting the water and wastewater industry, we’ll delve into the current state of affairs, upcoming developments, and our predictions for the next five to ten years. Along the way, we’ll address some common misconceptions and separate hype from reality.

Satellite networks launched between 1965 and 2011

Satellite networks 1965 to 2011

This timeline showcases the launch dates of the established leaders in the satellite network industry. While they have been around for some time, it’s essential not to dismiss them as outdated. These companies have demonstrated their resilience and reliability over the years, consistently updating their networks to meet evolving demands. Together, they cater to a wide range of satellite internet applications, from Iridium’s specialized Short Burst Data for IoT to Viasat’s high-speed broadband service with speeds of up to 100 Mbps.

Satellite networks 2018 to 2023-4

In recent years, there has been a remarkable surge in companies building satellite networks, all opting for the Low Earth Orbit (LEO) configuration and utilizing what are known as “SmallSats.” These SmallSats (which we’re using here as a collective name for any satellite weighing less than 400 lbs) are compact, measuring between the size of a kitchen fridge to a Rubik’s cube. Their smaller size has played a crucial role in facilitating this growth, as launching a SmallSat into Low Earth Orbit is far more cost-effective compared to larger satellites (over 2,200 lbs) into geostationary orbit.

Furthermore, the increased number of new entrants can also be attributed to the significant reduction in satellite launch costs. Back in the 1980s, it cost around $85,000 per kilogram (about 2.2 lbs) to launch a satellite, but thanks to SpaceX, that cost has plummeted to just $1,000 per kilogram as of 2020 (source). This cost reduction has further fueled the expansion of the satellite industry.

About satellite orbit heights

Satellite connectivity relies on the orbit height of the satellites, and there are two primary types: Low Earth Orbit (LEO) and Geostationary orbit.

Satellites in LEO are much closer to Earth compared to Geostationary satellites, resulting in significantly reduced data transmission times – usually less than 1 second. This low latency is crucial for real-time data transmission, ensuring that systems can operate smoothly and responsively.

However, one challenge with LEO satellites is that for real-time data transmission to work effectively, there must be a satellite overhead at the moment of transmission. In the case of Iridium, the most established LEO satellite constellation, that’s not an issue: there’s always one, two or three passing overhead at any time, wherever you are in the globe. However, newer entrants are likely to have coverage gaps, a challenge we’ll touch on in greater detail shortly.


What are the implications for water sensor manufacturers?

1. Lower Cost

With the rise of new satellite networks in LEO, the overall cost of establishing and maintaining these networks has reduced. As a result, operators have fewer costs to recover, leading to more competitive pricing for data transmission services. This cost reduction has forced established players to diversify their services to remain competitive.

For water sensor manufacturers, this lower cost of satellite connectivity is excellent news. In the past, the high expenses associated with satellite data transmission made certain use cases financially prohibitive. However, with the advent of more affordable satellite networks, cost is no longer a significant hindrance. Manufacturers can now capture data from remotely deployed sensors without worrying about the cost factor, making a wider range of applications economically viable.


Leak detection, Third Party Intrusion, broken wires, storm water ingress

Treatment Plants

Water levels and flows, energy consumption, water quality, equipment status


Water levels, precipitation, air and water temperature, relative humidity

2. Smaller antenna size

The size of the antenna and power requirements are directly related to the amount of data being transmitted: larger amounts of data necessitate larger antennas and more power. However, with the proliferation of satellites in Low Earth Orbit, sensor data can be efficiently transmitted using remarkably tiny antennas. For instance, the RockBLOCK 9603 employs a patch antenna measuring just 1″ (25mm) across to connect to the Iridium network.

These modern low-power-by-design modems, like the one used with the RockBLOCK 9603, can be powered by batteries for extended periods. The same applies to various devices connecting to the new LEO satellite networks.

RockBLOCK 9603 with zoom on patch antenna

3. The convergence of satellite and 5G

The next step in the evolution of Satellite IoT is the convergence of cellular and satellite networks. The telecommunications industry is working on several ideas that will enable seamless data transfer between these networks. 3GPP’s latest release – Release 17 – included technical specifications for direct-to-device 5G over satellite. This release also extended interoperability, Integrated Access and Backhaul (IAB), and network slicing to support Non-Terrestrial Networks (NTNs). A key application of this convergence is to extend the reach of 5G, which currently has limited coverage compared to its predecessors. If satellites can function as “cell towers” in space, it would unlock the full potential of 5G, providing global coverage from anywhere on the planet. Read more about this.

Challenges to watch out for

Despite the exciting advancements, there are some challenges to consider. Building a reliable satellite constellation takes time and investment, and many new entrants, including Starlink and Swarm, are still in the process of establishing their networks.

One significant challenge is high latency, where your device might not have an overhead satellite to send data to immediately, leading to delays in data transmission. The wait time can vary depending on the satellite network, with Swarm experiencing delays ranging from 2 minutes to 2 hours for North American users, while Iridium has faster parameters of 10 seconds to 15 minutes.

Coverage can also be spotty among new satellite networks. Only one company, Iridium, currently offers 100% global coverage, while other networks may have limited reach, especially in polar regions.

Congestion is another concern, where high demand overwhelms the network, leading to failed transmissions, higher costs due to data re-sending, and slower speeds during peak usage. Starlink, in particular, has faced congestion issues that are being addressed.

However, if your instruments or sensors are within the coverage of these networks, and you can manage receiving data once or twice a day, with the promise of improved speeds as more satellites are launched, then you have a wide array of choices available to you, at a low cost. It’s essential to evaluate these factors while considering satellite IoT solutions for your specific needs.

Our recommendations for water sensor satellite connectivity

For water utilities and critical national infrastructure, our top recommendations for satellite connectivity are established networks such as Eutelsat, Iridium, and Inmarsat. These networks have already garnered millions of subscribers and have demonstrated their ability to handle spikes in demand effectively. They also incorporate redundancy services, ensuring reliable and uninterrupted data transmission.

One of the key advantages of these established networks is their extensive coverage, providing connectivity to a wide geographical area. Additionally, they offer very low latency, enabling real-time data transmission critical for the smooth operation of water utility systems.

By choosing these well-established satellite networks, water utilities can benefit from proven reliability, robust coverage, and superior performance, making them ideal choices for mission-critical applications.

  • Low Earth Orbit
  • 100% global coverage
  • Network optimization and redundancy

  • Geostationary Orbit
  • 99.9% service availability
  • Merged with Viasat: huge scale

  • Geostationary Orbit
  • 1,200 employees
  • 40 years experience

What about data security?

“Water utilities are the third most targeted sector for hackers in the United States”
– Journal of Environmental Engineering

The rise of water terrorism is a concerning trend, particularly as access to clean and safe water becomes increasingly scarce. In 2022, hackers claimed to have gained access to the SCADA data of Thames Water in the UK, threatening to compromise the safety of drinking water. It was an amateurish attempt – they hacked a different company to the one they claimed, and didn’t, in fact, have access to SCADA data (read more).

However, this incident highlights the potential risks and vulnerabilities in the water infrastructure sector. There are state-sponsored cyber warfare units that possess significantly more capabilities, and if they were to target national infrastructure, the consequences could be severe.

Sending data via satellite is not entirely risk-free, but it provides a higher level of security compared to using public internet infrastructure. Intercepting data that travels from a sensor to a satellite and then back to a ground station is far more challenging for malicious actors compared to data transmitted over the internet. Furthermore, when the ground station is physically located on the premises, it creates an air-gapped solution, enhancing data security significantly.

One such private satellite network that offers exceptional security for transmitting mission-critical data is SCADASat. By leveraging private satellite networks like SCADASat, water utilities can add an extra layer of protection to their data, making it significantly more challenging for cyber attackers to compromise their systems. While no system is entirely immune to threats, private satellite networks offer a robust and secure solution for safeguarding critical data.

Private satellite networks illustrated

While SCADASat represents the highest level of security capabilities within satellite IoT, satellite data traffic, in general, is inherently secure, meeting stringent military and government security standards. This provides a solid foundation for safeguarding sensitive data.

At Ground Control, we have taken security to the next level by developing our own delivery network specifically designed for Iridium and Inmarsat traffic. This network allows us to have complete control over certified, state-of-the-art data paths, ensuring the secure delivery of traffic.

Our focus on security extends to our customers’ data as well. We offer optional public static IPs and fully configurable firewalls, providing additional layers of protection while efficiently moving data from point A to point B.

To conclude, satellite IoT has undergone a significant transformation in the last five years, with remarkable advancements across various aspects. Prices have decreased, transceivers have become smaller, power requirements have reduced, and data security has greatly improved.

With the upcoming launch of Amazon’s Kuiper satellite network in 2024, the pace of change in the satellite IoT industry is set to accelerate further. Rest assured, Ground Control is here to support you through these transformative times, helping you leverage the full potential of satellite IoT for your specific needs and ensuring the highest level of security for your data.

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Our team of experts is here to assist you in navigating the ever-changing landscape of satellite IoT. We provide expert recommendations, ensuring that the system you implement today remains viable and future-proof for the next 5, 10, or 15 years.

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