Raine Island Recovery Project, involving BHP, benefits from satellite broadband
A project to help save the world’s largest nesting site for thousands of green sea turtles has been bolstered with nbn™ Sky Muster™ satellite connectivity by Activ8me, Australia’s largest nbn™ satellite broadband provider.
Raine Island, on the remote northern tip of the Great Barrier Reef, is the nesting site for around 60,000 green turtles every year. Spanning only 800 by 300 metres, the island attracts 90 per cent of the vulnerable Northern Great Barrier Reef turtles, with up to 20,000 attempting to lay eggs in the sand during a single nesting season.
With the island’s role as a turtle sanctuary in danger of collapse, a team of scientists have been researching and managing the island as part of the Raine Island Recovery Project.
This is a five-year collaborative project by the BHP, Queensland Government, the Great Barrier Reef Marine Park Authority, Traditional Owners and the Great Barrier Reef Foundation.
Working on the Australian island, classed as ‘seriously remote’, is logistically difficult. There is no accommodation on the island; the only place to stay is a boat in the only mooring area off the island and weather conditions can be harsh and unpredictable.
Previously, data collection methods for the first couple of years were basic; researchers relied on clipboards and cameras whilst on the island and would bring the information back to the mainland project base. Knowing there must be a better way to manage the project and get results, the team piloted internet connectivity on the island. However, with a sporadic, weak connection, the researchers couldn’t be confident in the data’s reliability.
In 2016, the Raine Island Recovery Project brought in Australia’s largest satellite broadband and registered nbn™ service provider, Activ8me, knowing the company had experience connecting Australia’s remote and harsh environments.
“If they are going to make a difference, the researchers need to know what’s happening on the island, without physically being there all the time,” says Activ8me Chief Technology Officer Rob Gallesio. “Because the nbn™ Sky Muster™ service uses a highly reliable and fast satellite connection, they can rely on the internet even under extremely harsh climatic conditions.”
Activ8me’s solution combined the nbn™ Sky Muster service and solar and battery-powered hardware to deliver download speeds of up to 25Mbps – around five times what people were able to access on the previous nbn™ Interim Satellite Service (ISS). Activ8me also linked the communication system with the project’s internal network and added a redundancy system, for extra peace of mind. With Activ8me’s Melbourne-based Customer Care service, the project team has one central point of contact for any technical support they might need.
In order to install the internet services, Rob Gallesio visited Raine Island with the project team during one of their research trips, and lived with them on the boat for ten days.
“We know that to provide reliable connectivity to remote areas of Australia, we need to work closely with our clients to understand their unique needs and the conditions they are facing,” says Activ8me’s Chairman, Tony Bundrock. “This means our staff get the opportunity to visit remote parts of Australia many people don’t normally see.”
After just six months in operation, the fast, reliable connection of Activ8me’s satellite internet infrastructure has transformed the way the researchers work.
The project team has now placed equipment around the island, such as remote cameras, weather stations and environmental sensors, that collect and transmit data back to the mainland base via the Activ8me high speed satellite internet. For example, by monitoring the temperature and water levels on the nesting beach in real-time, they can further investigate the issues at work on the island.
Due to sensitive scientific research and world heritage protection, Raine Island is restricted from public access. However, the future opportunities for the project team are now endless. For example, using Activ8me’s satellite internet infrastructure, they could remotely monitor who is accessing the island without permission.
“The ability to manage the island and data collection without being on the island is now a driving factor for the project,” says Mr Gallesio. “Now, while they’re on the island, the team is collecting data on tablets knowing the internet satellite link is sending it straight to a central database system in the cloud. They know the data is secure and the team back on the mainland can see it in real-time.”
“Not only can they collect data and footage from different locations around the island, they can also remotely manage the equipment and the way it collects data, without having to revisit the island to adjust it.”
“Ultimately, connecting Raine Island is a really important example of how this can be done elsewhere,” says Mr Bundrock. “It enables the researchers to do their best to manage this very special place, but also shows how Activ8me’s technology can be used to make a difference in harsh environments. For me, this is an integral part of what we have done here.”
Australian-owned Activ8me has been operating for over 15 years, initially entering the market as a satellite broadband provider focused on rural and remote communities. The company writes its own software in Australia and uses Australian hardware to create its infrastructure solutions wherever possible.