Heifner is a name in the international satellite communications industry. Heifner’s companies, based in Columbia, have provided satellite television, telephone and Internet services to customers for years. But after the attacks on Sept. 11, 2001, Heifner started a new company, Orbital Data Net, to provide emergency personnel with the means to communicate during crises. “I hope I can see my equipment helping people,” Heifner said. After the attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11, Heifner said everything came back into focus. he realized that his expertise with geostationary satellites could give rescue workers faced with terrorist attacks or natural disasters a means of communication. “The only communication system that is immune to terrorists, are satellites that are a significant distance to the moon,” Heifner said. So, in 2002, Heifner launched Orbital Data Net, or ODN, to provide communication access to people outside the existing infrastructure or to areas where infrastructure was disabled by disaster.
One of Heifner’s most prized creations is The Egg, a lightweight trailer that can be pulled behind a vehicle or loaded in a helicopter and delivered to areas without access to communication infrastructure. The Egg’s cover can be pulled back to reveal a satellite antenna that can be activated in minutes to restore communications instantly. The Egg, which can be powered by a large battery or even by solar power, boasts dozens of satellite telephone lines and can support Internet or even television broadcasts. Its function is much like a television station’s uplink truck, but can go into areas a bulky van could not. ODN recently sold one of the Egg’s to the Kansas City (Mo.) Office of Emergency Management. ODN has also worked with Loma Linda University Medical Center in Loma Linda, Calif., to connect its Mobile Telemedicine Disaster Response Unit with a satellite connection to the hospital. Dr. Jeff G. Grange, director of emergency medical services at the hospital, said he learned of ODN at a consumer electronics show in Las Vegas. “They were very responsive and willing to work with us on a project that was very unusual,” Grange said.
Heifner said he believes ODN will have a significant impact in the next 10 years. “We want to put the word out that the company has solid ideas and concepts of what to do in emergencies,” Heifner said.
You can contact Greg Heifner or visit OrbitalData.net/.