Medevac helicopters may be grounded after 5G rollout on Jan. 19 as network interferes with helicopters’ radar altimeter
- AT&T and Verizon Plan to Launch Their 5G Networks in the US on January 19
- The rollout could mean many medevac helicopters will be grounded
- US law requires these air ambulances to have a working radar altimeter, which measures altitude
- However, 5G appears to make the devices unreliable
- However, the FAA allows 119 helicopters to fly regardless of the law
- That still leaves hundreds of medevac helicopters grounded
AT&T and Verizon will unleash their 5G networks in the US on Jan. 19, but the launch could ground many medevac helicopters as a result.
The wireless service could make radar altimeters, which measure altitude, unreliable, and US law requires all commercial helicopters to have a working device in order to fly.
Without radar altimeters, it’s nearly impossible to land in remote areas or on hospital landing pads, says Ben Clayton, interim director of Life Flight Networks, as reported by Bloomberg.
The Helicopter Association International (HAI) filed a petition with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) in October asking for an exemption from the law when 5G is rolled out.
And on January 13, the HAI finally received a response, but only received partial approval.
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AT&T and Verizon will unleash their 5G networks in the US on Jan. 19, but the launch could mean many medevac helicopters will be grounded
“Based on the unprecedented nature of the widespread effects on radio altimeters…the FAA will exempt holders of Part 119 certificates who perform HAA [helicopter air ambulance] operations in areas where the FAA has determined that 5G C-Band interference is affecting or could affect the radio altimeter,” the statement said. FAA.
However, there are thousands of HAAs in the US that care for at least 300,000 people a year who need to be transferred to a medical facility.
Helicopters used for medical transportation often land and take off from locations that are not airports or helicopters to evacuate victims of natural disasters or car accidents.
And a reliable radar altimeter is needed to ensure the safety of the helicopter, rescuers and patients.
The wireless service could make radar altimeters, which measure altitude, unreliable, and US law requires all commercial helicopters to have a working device in order to fly. Pictured is a Verizon going up in Utah
Regardless, the FAA says this type of transport cannot be grounded, even if the device is not functioning properly due to 5G interference.
“Allowing the use of NVGs in HAA operations in off-airport locations or in unimproved areas when a radio altimeter might experience interference is in the public interest,” the FAA said in a statement.
“The public interest in continuing such operations is great, especially given that approximately 40,000 to 50,000 such operations take place at night outside the airport or unimproved areas.”
There has been a lot of back and forth between AT&T and Verizon and the US government leading up to the official rollout.
The launch was initially scheduled for January 4, but due to concerns about the service’s impact on airlines, the companies agreed to a two-week delay to give the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) enough time to resolve the issues.
Aviation officials fear 5G signals near airports could interfere with certain aircraft instruments, including the radio altimeter used to measure altitude
The problem is the 3.7 to 3.98 GHz frequency, known as C-Band, for which the two wireless carriers have issued tens of billions of licenses to power their ultra-fast 5G networks.
Federal Aviation Administration and Boeing officials have warned that there is potential for interference with vital aircraft instruments operating in the adjacent 4.2 to 4.4 GHz band, including radio altimeters that tell pilots their altitude in poor visibility.
In short, the fear is that on rare occasions, incorrect altitude readings could confuse pilots as they approach to land in poor visibility, with potentially disastrous results.
However, the two-week delay should give the FAA enough time to ensure there are no disruptions with planes – but the same cannot be said for helicopters.
EXPLAINED: THE EVOLUTION FROM MOBILE BROADBAND TO 5G
The evolution of the G system began in 1980 with the invention of the mobile phone that allowed analog data to be sent over telephone conversations.
Digital entered the market in 1991 with 2G and the launch of SMS and MMS capabilities.
Since then, the possibilities and carrying capacity of the mobile network have increased enormously.
More data can be transferred from one point to another faster than ever over the mobile network.
5G is expected to be 100 times faster than the currently used 4G.
While the jump from 3G to 4G has been most beneficial for mobile browsing and work, the move to 5G will be so fast that it will become almost real-time.
That means mobile operations will be just as fast as internet connections in the office.
Potential applications for 5g include:
- Simultaneous translation of multiple languages in a party conference call
- Self-driving cars can stream movies, music and navigation information from the cloud
- A full 8 GB movie can be downloaded in six seconds.
5G is expected to be so fast and efficient that it could mean the end of wired connections.
According to industry estimates, 50 billion devices will be connected to 5G by the end of 2020.
The evolution from 1G to 5G. The predicted speed of 5G is more than 1 Gbps – 1,000 times faster than the existing speed of 4G and could be implemented in laptops of the future