Wrentham: Fern Communications secures FRX-1 radio deal with Royal Navy contractor Serco

HMS Argyll, on which Fern Communications' FRX-1 radio repeater system underwent a successful trial

HMS Argyll, on which Fern Communications' FRX-1 radio repeater system underwent a successful trial - Credit: Archant

FERN Communications has supplied its FRX-1 radio repeater system to assist in fuel tank cleaning operations carried on Royal Navy vessels by international service group Serco.

Fern, based at Wrentham, secured the deal following a successful trial at the Devonport naval base in Plymouth.

By strategically positioning the FRX-1 on the ship, radio signals were able to travel from the radio used by the crew member located inside the fuel tank around thick steel structures to the radio operated by the crew member on the support barge. Throughout the demonstration, radio communications were successfully maintained.

Jim Morrison, tank cleaning lighter chief engineer for Serco, said: “Due to the steel structure of the ships and the confined spaces in which the crews work, we found that radio signals broke down constantly. This meant that our cleaning crews working in the fuel tank and their co-workers located on the support barge could not communicate with each other effectively.

“When the FRX-1 was placed mid-ship onboard the HMS Argyll frigate, we were dubious. ortunately, the system helped maintain the signal, and radio communications between the two teams are now greatly improved.

“This innovative solution enables us to continue to deliver an excellent standard of service to the MoD,” he added.

Given the quality of communication that the FRX-1 provides during cleaning operations in Plymouth, Serco is currently in discussions with Fern Communications about the purchase of a second system for use while cleaning fuel tanks on vessels at the Royal Navy docks in Portsmouth.

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The FRX-1 radio repeater developed by Fern is said to be the only system of its kind that effectively bends the radio signal around a solid structure so that it reaches its target destination, the receiving radio located on the other side of the structure.

It operates on VHF, marine and UHF frequencies, meaning that it is fully compatible with existing radio communications systems currently in use offshore. Users can also share frequencies with other radio users in privacy.

The FRX-1 has a number of approvals for use in hazardous zones which are subject to rigorous standards aimed at preventing explosions, enabling it to be used in North America, Europe and most oil-producing regions. It is also ingress-protected, making it dust-tight and protected against powerful water jets and water dispersed by heavy seas.