A GROUP of Bahamian entrepreneurs have the “green light” for a $427m investment in what Raytheon Technologies (a merger of Raytheon, Pratt & Whitney and Collins Aerospace) has termed will be the “first-of-its-kind aviation, climate, meteorological, navigation, 3D terrain, street and chart mapping and severe weather sensing network exceeding that of any other industrialised nation” —thereby enhancing the safety of The Bahamas, boosting key industries vital to the Bahamian economy’s post-COVID rebound and providing Dr Minnis’ Administration with the vital prerequisite components that are necessary to legally and lawfully collect what is projected to be more than $300m in “overflight fees” from the 594,000 flights from each and every commercial, cargo and private carrier using Bahamas’ sovereign airspace (archipelagic baselines, territorial seas, contiguous and exclusive economic zone.
In a wide ranging interview with Tribune’s Business section, Gene Welch, managing director for Raytheon Technologies Intelligence & Space’s Air Traffic Control Systems, described the $427m Bahamian-designed aviation, climate, marine, meteorological, navigation, 3D hyper local terrain, street, chart mapping and severe Wx sensing network (WxSenseNet) as an “extraordinary vision”.
He said that the $100bn a year aerospace, defence, intelligence, cyber security, aircraft engine and weather conglomerate was “eager” to conclude a strategic alliance with Bahamas Aviation, Climate and Severe Weather Network (BACSWN) having validated BACSWN’s intellectual property rights.
As one of the largest contributors to the safety and efficient operation of the air transportation industry – controlling some 60 percent of the world’s commercial airspace, including providing radar, air traffic control management, systems integration and weather services to the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA); National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); National Hurricane Centre, NASA, US Department of Defence, US Air Force, Coast Guard and dozens of other governmental agencies – Raytheon Technologies (a merger of Raytheon, Pratt & Whitney and Collins Aerospace) reiterated the fact that “BACSWN’s proposed system will be the first-of-its-kind system in the world”.
Mr Welch shared that BACSWN’s vision will transform The Bahamas’ ability to “sense, track, predict and enable the creation 3D impact-based simulations of monster storms such as Hurricane Dorian”. Not to mention transforming the accuracy and timeliness of “eAlerts” or need for evacuation orders.
“On behalf of our entire team, I’d like to take this opportunity to sincerely thank Prime Minister Minnis, DPM & Minister of Works, Desmond Bannister, the Minister of Transport & Local Government, the Cabinet and Raytheon Technologies for their unequivocal support of such an ambitious undertaking,” said Eileen Dupuch Carron, executive chairman of Bahamas Aviation, Climate and Severe Weather Network (BACSWN).
“One of the ancillary benefits of the project,” added Mr Welch, will be to enable Government of The Bahamas - like 186 other nations - to avail itself of its sole, sovereign and exclusive rights to collect what both Raytheon and BACWN have projected to be $300m in “Overflight Fees” from the 594,000 flights, vessels and craft of each and every commercial, cargo and private carriers using Bahamas’ territory each year under the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation.
“It would be remiss if I did not also convey our gratitude to the members of the Cabinet Select Committee tasked with responsibility for the time and efforts they devoted to negotiating BACSWN’s Heads of Agreement that resulted in such an overwhelming endorsement of the project’s goals, unparalleled capabilities and myriad of ancillary benefits,” continued Mrs Carron.
Disclosing that considerable time, efforts and resources have been spent in discussion with various potential partners and the Department of Meteorology, BACSWN’s financial consultant told The Tribune that while BACSWN owns the Intellectual Property Designs of “WxSenseNet” and had selected US Aerospace & Defence Contractor, Raytheon’s revolutionary Phased Array Skyler Radars - connected to a myriad of other highly advanced sensors, hydro-met buoys and 3D Street, Terrain Chart and Mapping Drones at 109 sites across the Bahamian archipelago. That data will be fed into BACSWN’s patent pending Convergence Centre and Raytheon’s global Advanced Weather Information Processing System (AWIPS) so as to assist the Government of The Bahamas, NHC and NOAA in minimising the increasing risks of life-threatening events impacting upon our nation, its people, visitors, guests, as well as the aviation, insurance, maritime and tourism sectors.
“Clearly, one needs an interconnected array of reliable, accurate real time weather data if BACSWN is to address the FAA, NHC & US Coast Guard’s long-standing safety concerns let alone, have any hope of providing live situational awareness, 3D Impact based simulations, bespoke Apps, eAlerts or hyper-local weather forecasts across the entire Bahamas,” added Nicolas Rees.
In thanking the Prime Minister, Council of Ministers, Cabinet Select Committee and Department of Meteorology for their support of the project and for the faith they have bestowed in Bahamas Aviation, Climate & Severe Weather Network having been recently designated as the Meteorological Weather Authority, on behalf of the Contracting state, in accordance with the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation, BACSWN’s founder shared that “in the very near future BACSWN aims to transform the delivery of aviation, climate, meteorological and real-time weather data to the Office of the Prime Minister, NEMA, FAA, NHC, NOAA, marine, cruise and tourism sectors by providing real-time situational awareness on any potential threats facing any communities across the length and breadth of our nation’s archipelago; near live, 3D Impact Based Simulations, Hyper-Local forecasts and other specialized bespoke weather Apps,”
“It has been a privilege to work with Director Basden, Assistant Director Simmons and other members of the Department of Meteorology over the last couple of months to stand up the first Meteorological Watch Office in our nation’s history utilizing Raytheon’s global resources and Advanced Weather Information Processing System (AWIPS).””
Describing a “Watch Office” as a facility providing crafts of vessels using Bahamian air space with real-time data and other charts products/services to avoid potentially dangerous weather systems that may be developing along their flight plan, Mr Welch told The Tribune that “real-time aviation tracking and meteorological weather are the key drivers to not only collect overflight fees; but mitigate the ever-increasing threats from tropical storms and hurricanes.”
Mr Welch said Raytheon has been collaborating with the principals of BACSWN alongside meeting with members of the Department of Meteorology for a year-and-a-half to help bring this concept to fruition.
“BACSWN really had quite a vision for this, and it’s nice to see it starting to come to fruition,” said Mr Welch. “It will provide, especially for The Bahamas’ Out Islands, advance warning that they don’t have right now to better predict the timing of these catastrophic hurricanes and get people to safety.”
“There would be little doubt that the aviation industry will look forward to the possibility of flight plans being able to be adjusted; and, if needed, moved. In addition, I have to imagine that the tourism industry and other sectors will benefit from hyper localised weather forecasts,” he said.
“Your strategic location is a blessing and a curse really. Being able to detect these things far in advance goes a long way for the safety of Bahamians.”
“So long as we face no more unconscionable delays from the Office of the Attorney General with respect to a review of our BACSWN’s Heads of Agreement for the buildout, construction, start-up, testing, operation, service maintenance and protection of said ‘WxSenseNet’; or, a repeat of the tortuous inference we’ve endured to date, we should be in a position to execute a strategic alliance with Raytheon in the very near future,” said Mrs Carron.
The Tribune has learned that in keeping with its Cabinet Conclusion and in accordance with instructions from the Minister of Tourism and Aviation (MOTA) BACSWN has filed notice with ICAO, FAA and IATA of its intention to stand up a Meteorological Watch Office within the next 30-45 days to assist the Ministry of Tourism & Aviation commence charging “Overflight Fees”.
As previously reported, Julian Rolle has accepted the post of BACSWN Chairman of The Board and Mrs Carron will serve as executive chairman. Adam Darville is the vice-president of infrastructure; Montino Roberts, vice-president of information technology; Nicholas Rees, Financial Consultant, Glen Ward, vice-president of business development; Burton Rodgers, vice-president of government affairs and David Gates, Consultant/ RF Engineer.
Portia Nicholson of Higgs & Johnson serves as the group’s legal advisor.
The project that will likely create 450 jobs during the construction phase with an estimated 300 full-time positions once BACSWN’s Convergence Centre reaches “full operating capacity”.
Describing the real-time situational awareness and other ultra-long range weather products/services as “lifesaving”, Mr Rees explained that BACSWN has identified Island Global Capital as its choice for an exclusive financial advisor. “I’m confident that the once the Heads of Agreement is signed the necessary capital will be in place to bring BACSWN’s “unique, unparalleled, ingenious vision” to fruition added Mr. Rees
“Not only do we intend to transform our nation’s capacity to detect track and respond to severe weather events at no cost to taxpayers,” stated Mr. Adam Darville, VP Infrastructure, but build a facility capable of coordinating search and rescue operations, providing remote air traffic control services for any BCAA owned family island aerodrome.”
The group’s research, he said, has shown that by increasing the safety, capacity and efficiency of the flights using Bahamas sovereign airspace; commercial, cargo and private carrier could save as much as $1,000 per flight through fuel savings, wind assisted trajectories, direct routings, reductions in spacing, delays, weather deviations and other maintenance related expenses; not to mention, providing bespoke services to the aviation, boating, cruise industry, hospitality, insurance, marine, media, navigation, ports and wedding sectors.
Mr Rees says BACSWN has completed its negotiations with the Cabinet Select-Committee and is “awaiting a final review of its Heads of Agreement” by the Office of the Attorney General. Thereafter, the group hopes to conclude its Heads of Agreement with Cabinet and NYC based Island Global Capital.
Suggesting the group will be at the forefront of creating “a new dynamic” when it comes to aviation tracking, climate and real-time severe weather sensing, Mr Rees said: “I’m proud to have been invited to play a part in bringing such an impressive, ingenious designed vision to fruition — sprung from a napkin in Crooked Island.” Mr. Rees promises that the Bahamian people will enjoy “real value over time” from this initiative and that BACSWN is considering offering shares to the public in due course
“The ingenuity of the system we are bringing to the table, not only brings in life-saving technology as it relates to aviation tracking and real-time weather; but empowers the Ministry of Tourism & Aviation to execute its mandate from the Office of the Prime Minister.”
Mr Rees said BACSWN will create a “unique synergy” with the Government’s aviation sector ambitions, especially the levying of overflight fees on aircraft so that they can pass safely and efficiently through The Bahamas’ sovereign air space on their flights to the US, Gulf of Mexico and Cuba from EU, UK, North, Central and South America and Caribbean.
Hopefully, the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), US Coast Guard and air carriers will no longer voice concerns about the “safety hazard” for flights operating in Bahamian air space, given the lack of real-time weather data in areas prone to sudden -– and significant – changes in atmospheric conditions.
Mr Rees said that BACSWN’s system is uniquely positioned to resolve these issues as well as weather deviations and the need for increased separations that have plagued our overcrowded airspace for some time.
“Currently, this is virtually no real time aviation tracking, reliable weather data or inflight information being provided to flight crews in Bahamian air space, despite our nation straddle the key air/sea routes between South Florida, Gulf of Mexico to Europe, Latin and Central American and Caribbean,” said Glen Ward, VP Business Development.
BACSWN will charge users a fee for providing real-time aviation tracking and meteorological weather services, although the information will be supplied to the Government & FAA for free. Under a public-private partnership model, Mr Rees said there would be a revenue sharing arrangement with the Government.
“While there’s a lot of moving parts, we’ve got the talent, expertise, sources of funding, strategic partners and the technology lined up to meet an aggressive 24-month timeline in order to reach our initial operating capacity. At the moment, we are in the process of standing up a Meteorological Watch Office while waiting on the Office of the Attorney General,” he said.
In the interim BACSWN has already received backing from Director of the Department of Meteorology, who has called the project the answer to the Department of Meteorology’s prayers.
“The design of this network is so advanced that we’ll be able to create near-live Street Level 3D Impact Based simulations in order to give citizens the most accurate and up-to-the-minute hyper local warnings of any potential weather,” stated Director Basden.
“Right now, we cannot do that because Doppler weather radars are not designed to do that,” he added
“If you have a tropical cyclone moving and based on how the models and the information are given, it can tell the various degrees and stages of damage, flood and water infiltration at various points and we could describe it more accurately. “Right now, we just say ‘flooding’, but we will be able to graphically show where the water levels will be on the houses and infiltration in areas. My Doppler weather radars, mainly (allow) for me to see what is approaching The Bahamas at a distance.
“Frankly, I can’t wait to see what Director Basden, Mr. Simmons and the rest of the Met team can do with a system that’s the best in the world!” said Adam Darville.
“What will set us apart is not only being able to ingest data from a variety of sources, but the unique manner in which we intend to visualize such, using an augmented reality gaming engine,” said Mr. Rees. “Anyone can check whether it’s going to rain on Saturday! We’re going to provide the most accurate, immersive, 3D interactive experience possible!”
“We have a number of Bahamians who are assisting in various ways behind the scenes until our Heads of Agreement is signed and plan on inviting other Bahamian entrepreneurs to collaborate with us on the design of other products/services for the hospitality and event planning industry,” added Mr Rees. “In the very near future we hope to hire a number of staff in order to send them off for specialized training!” he said.