Kruger National Park upgrades communication system

Issue 5 2021 Mining (Industry)

The Kruger National Park covers an area of 19 485 square kilometres from the Limpopo to Mpumalanga province in north eastern South Africa. Sprawling across 360 kilometres from north to south and 65 kilometres from east to west, it is one of the largest game reserves in Africa. The United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) marks part of this park as an International Man and Biosphere Reserve.

There are over 600 park game rangers, who work along with the assistance of SAPS and the SANDF to carry out the anti-poaching activities, supported with two helicopters. Along the Mozambique border (also including buffer zones), there are long fences that were established to prevent unwanted ‘visitors’ infiltrating the park.

The surveillance effort is managed from the control centre in the park along with the national anti-poaching committee, which also oversees all activities and coordinates related units for anti-poaching requirements. To aid the efficient collaboration of resources, a professional communication solution was required that would help the group’s objective to achieve zero loss of life from poaching activity, both animal and human.

Protection through communications

Considering the challenging wilderness and natural sensitivity of the operation across the park, fixed line and mobile telecommunication services only cover the main tourist areas and didn’t deliver on the mission critical requirement. Due to the scale of the reserve, with massive plains and grass fields, it was not feasible and economical to set up many sites to provide communications and those on patrol had used simple push-to-talk on their old analogue radio system for many years.

However, as poaching activity increased and more resources were added to the anti-poaching activities, the existing system became crowded and less efficient. The rangers also suffered from several casualties in more remote areas, therefore a better way to locate incidents and send reinforcements was needed.

After a comprehensive site survey and discussions with the management team about budget allocation and current infrastructure, Hytera provided a reliable, cost-effective anti-poaching communication system comprising a multi-site DMR (digital mobile radio) Tier II repeater system and the Smartdispatch application.

TDMA and DMR expand options

This system uses TDMA technology to improve channel efficiency across the allocated radio frequencies, so the digital communication capacity is doubled compared to the old analogue system, with no need to apply for new frequencies. The microwave connected repeaters are the backbone of the communication system, supporting clear voice and data services, with a dispatching centre completing the solution.

The control centre can now manage remote maintenance and improve response times by using various applications such as SDS, vehicle location, personnel location polling and track monitoring services.

To survive in the harsh environment of the game reserve, Hytera MD785G and PD785G terminals were deployed, compliant with MIL-STD-810G standards to ensure that performance is unaffected by the inevitable knocks and drops. Even under challenging weather conditions such as heavy rain and dust storms, the radios continue to work well and provide outstanding clarity.

The repeater-based system is future- proof and can be easily upgraded to Hytera Extended Pseudo Trunking (XPT) in the future if the communication activity increases. The repeaters can even migrate to a Hytera DMR Trunking system through a software upgrade if the ranger resource continues to grow, providing a simple migration path to expand to a more powerful system in years to come, allowing more effort and focus to be invested in wildlife protection.

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